Racism used to be considered a US public health issue until Nixon interfered

Government officials are rushing to declare racism a public health crisis across the United States. The city council in Austin, Texas made the announcement on Wednesday, officials in Louisville, Kentucky are set to follow suit, and they will join local officials in 19 states who’ve recently recognized racism as a public health issue.

These statements mark a shift for public bodies that, for decades, have underplayed health research on social issues. But it’s not the first time US officials have recognized the problem. Racism was once a standard feature of public health research in the US. That is, until President Richard Nixon put an end to the focus during the 1970s.

In 1972, nearly a fifth of the National Institute of Mental Health’s $63 million external research budget went to studying the mental health effects of social problems, including racism. During President Lyndon Johnson’s tenure in the ’60s, NIMH was home to considerable research on mental health among minority groups and the health implications of racism.

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