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Experiencing racism in health care: the mental health impacts for Victorian Aboriginal communities

Racism can be broadly defined as the behaviours, practices, beliefs and prejudices that underlie avoidable and unfair inequalities across groups in society based on race, ethnicity, culture or religion.1 Racism is often conceptualised at three different levels, which overlap in practice: interpersonal racism, internalised racism and systemic or institutional racism.2,3

The link between self-reported experiences of racism and poorer physical and mental health is well documented.4 There is ample evidence that racism contributes to worse health among Aboriginal Australians.59 There is also evidence that there are differences in the health care provided to Aboriginal and other Australians and that these differences can contribute to worse health outcomes.10 This in turn suggests that the deleterious effects associated with exposure to racism are likely to be amplified in health settings compared with other settings because of the impacts on future health-seeking behaviour and quality of care in addition to negative psychological and physiological effects.

To date, there has been little research examining exposure to racism in health settings and its impacts…