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The American Heritage Dictionary defines prejudice as "an adverse judgment or opinion formed beforehand or without knowledge or examination of the facts." The history of public health provides numerous examples of how irrational suspicion or hatred of a particular group, race, or religion resulted in injury to members of that group. Many of these cases of injury are owing to the differential treatment or outright medical neglect of certain groups. Human beings are a homogeneous species, and genetic data indicate that there are few biological differences between ethnic and racial populations that explain differences in health status. Discriminatory behavior by public health professionals on the basis of race, religion, or other social category jeopardizes the health care system by providing inequitable and inadequate care. In response to this threat, federal civil rights legislation proposes the rescension of federal funding to hospitals that violate civil rights laws.

Stephen B. Thomas

(see also: Civil Rights Act of 1964; Cultural Appropriateness; Equity and Resource Allocation; Ethnicity and Health; Ethnocentrism; Inequalities in Health; Minority Rights; Segregation )


Krieger, N. (1999). "Embodying Inequality: A Review of Concepts, Measures, and Methods for Studying Health Consequences of Discrimination." International Journal of Health Services 29:295352.

Montagu, A. (1997). Man's Most Dangerous Myth: The Fallacy of Race, 6th edition. Walnut Creek, CA: Alta Mira Press.

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