SSM – population health 4() 17-24 doi 10.1016/j.ssmph.2017.10.006
This essay examines how civil rights and their implementation have affected and continue to affect the health of racial and ethnic minority populations in the United States. Civil rights are characterized as social determinants of health. A brief review of US history indicates that, particularly for Blacks, Hispanics, and American Indians, the longstanding lack of civil rights is linked with persistent health inequities. Civil rights history since 1950 is explored in four domains-health care, education, employment, and housing. The first three domains show substantial benefits when civil rights are enforced. Discrimination and segregation in housing persist because anti-discrimination civil rights laws have not been well enforced. Enforcement is an essential component for the success of civil rights law. Civil rights and their enforcement may be considered a powerful arena for public health theorizing, research, policy, and action.