Weathering: The weathering hypothesis proposes that long-term exposure to social and economic stressors resulting from an ecology of disadvantage is one factor driving inequitable racial and ethnic health outcomes. That is to say, people of color, particularly Black people in America, age faster because we live in a racist society. The initial evidence supporting this hypothesis focused on birth outcomes. Scholarship has since expanded to other health disparities related to chronic disease and wear and tear on the body known as allostatic load. The disproportionate rates of mortality related to COVID-19 faced by people of color continue to showcase the reality of racial injustice due, in part, to “weathering.” Supporting anti-racist policies and practices across systems has biological as well as social and economic implications. In other words, addressing systemic racism has an impact on the health and lifespan of people of color.
This week, Health Equity Solutions wrapped up our 2020 Listening Sessions. Input from participants will inform our 2021 legislative agenda.
The effort to declare racism a public health crisis at all levels of government continues. On September 24 the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation became the first tribal nation to make this declaration, joining 17 Connecticut municipalities and hundreds of counties, towns, and states in acknowledging the role racism plays in our systems, ways of being, and health.Easton and Simsbury are the towns that most recently joined this movement.
Last, but certainly not least, please check to make sure you’re registered to vote.
Health Equity Solutions continues our work to center equity in pandemic response and recovery efforts. Part of this work is making sure that a diverse array of voices reach policymakers. Please take our survey or take it again if you have new thoughts to share: English, Spanish, Haitian Creole.
Interested in the results? Summary results are regularly updated here.
This month, we dug into how the pandemic is affecting health disparities. This issue brief by the Kaiser Family Foundation analyzed health records for COVID-19 testing, infection, hospitalization, and death by race/ethnicity and found that disparities persist even when controlling for underlying conditions and socio-demographic factors. We also reviewed this commentary in the New England Journal of Medicine cautioning that sharing disparities data without context can reinforce false assumptions about biology and behavior.
Taken together, these articles point to the complexity of policy-making and the need to embed anti-racism in all policies. For example, policies to prevent the spread of COVID-19 may increase inequities in cancer deaths. We need to track and discuss these inequities to assess whether or not strategies to promote equity are effective, but if we do so without context, we risk reinforcing stereotypes and biases that contribute to racial disparities in health.
At HES we are grateful that you join us in the journey of considering these factors and working towards health justice in Connecticut.
Geronimus, A. T., Hicken, M., Keene, D., & Bound, J. (2006). "Weathering" and age patterns of allostatic load scores among blacks and whites in the United States. American journal of public health, 96(5), 826–833. https://doi.org/10.2105/AJPH.2004.060749
Forde, A. T., Crookes, D. M., Suglia, S. F., & Demmer, R. T. (2019). The weathering hypothesis as an explanation for racial disparities in health: a systematic review. Annals of epidemiology, 33, 1-18.