An inquiry into racial disparities used outdated references and notably underplayed the impact of structural racism in health outcomes, the UK’s leading authority on public health has said, in a new blow to the credibility of the much-criticised report.
Marmot also criticised the report’s contention that health inequalities should be considered an outcome of factors such as deprivation and poor housing rather than ethnicity. Such social conditions “are themselves the result of longstanding inequalities and structural racism”, he noted.
The report’s focus on disparities due to social class was only part of the story, Marmot argued. “There are health differences between races that are not fully explained by class, and so therefore racism must play some role. To put it simply, these two issues may overlap but they are not the same thing.”
The Tory government commission’s report was published last week and attracted criticism for seeming to downplay structural and institutional causes for ethnic disparities, focusing instead on areas such as family background and individual responsibility.
Its chapter on public health has faced particular condemnation, with other academics saying it was of poor quality and seemed to “cherrypick” data so as to reach pre-determined conclusions.