Researcher looks at healthy changes through a political lens

Politicians' race-conscious speeches have broad, and sometimes unexpected, consequences, according to a new book from Daniel Gillion of the University of Pennsylvania. 

In Governing With Words: The Political Dialogue on Race, Public Policy and Inequality in America, Gillion said are sharers of health information with the potential to increase awareness of and advise minorities on best practices.

Gillion, an associate professor of political science in Penn's School of Arts & Sciences, focuses his research on racial and ethnic politics, political behavior, public opinion and the American presidency. 

Published in April, Governing With Words features Gillion's analysis of political discussions about health in African-American and Latino magazines including Essence, Ebony, Black Enterprise, Hispanic and Hispanic Times. He said that from 1991 to 2012 presidential race-conscious speeches on health were amplified by the minority media and influenced individual levels of health awareness. 

Gillion, a former Robert Wood Johnson Health Policy Scholar at Harvard University, found that political discussions shape societal norms by shifting the policy agenda, initiating dialogue and producing policies that remedy racial inequality. 

The book documents the direct influence that politicians' race-conscious speeches have had on government productivity, on transforming societal behavior and on social change, especially in improving health disparities and awareness about health concerns that are prominent in the minority community.

In addition, Gillion examines how politicians, by being "race-neutral," unknowingly contribute to the persistent racial inequality that impacts issues from health to unemployment. 

"Race-conscious political discussions in government must continue with either a race-based or class-based policy approach," Gillion said. "Otherwise, improvements in racial inequality in America stagnate."

More information: Governing with Words: The Political Dialogue on Race, Public Policy, and Inequality in America: … ty-america?format=PB

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