The U.S. may spend more money on health care than any other country, but it’s also home to some of the worst health outcomes in the industrialized world. Renowned health disparities researcher David Williams says it’s a reminder that the key to a healthier America is tackling the social determinants of health.

“All of us could be more healthy than we currently are,” Williams said during an interview with APHA TV, noting persistent gaps in health by place, race, ethnicity and socioeconomic status. “We have made progress on many of the gaps, but they are still large and we still have a very long way to go.”

Williams spoke with APHA TV in November at the APHA Annual Meeting and Expo in San Diego, where he also delivered the keynote address at the meeting’s Opening General Session. During the interview, Williams, a public health professor at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and creator of the Everyday Discrimination Scale, described racism as a “powerful driver” of health inequities, calling on viewers to both acknowledge racism and help undo its structural and institutional foothold.

“Many Americans are in denial that racism still exists today — they think of racism as a relic of the past,” Williams told APHA TV. “We have to acknowledge that there is a problem …We also have to look at our policies and our institutions and the racism that is deeply embedded in the ways in which many of our institutions operate, with a commitment to dismantling them and creating new policies that truly support and afford equity for all.”

In addition to the health effects of racism, Williams also spoke to APHA TV about building cultures of health at the local level as well as supporting immigrant communities in hostile times.

“There is increasing evidence that that type of hostility is a form of stressful life experience that has negative effects on health,” he said on the issue of immigrant health. “We need to create a welcoming environment supportive of all — that we build into our system, policies that support and respect the dignity of everyone.”

Visit APHA TV to watch Williams’ full remarks as well as all the episodes from San Diego. APHA’s next big gathering happens on Feb. 6 in Washington, D.C., when policy and public health leaders will come together for “Public Health Under Siege: Improving Policy In Turbulent Times.” For information or to register for the one-day policy meeting, visit

For more video from the 2018 APHA Annual Meeting and Expo, register for APHA Live. APHA Live includes on-demand, online access to 14 of the top sessions from the APHA Annual Meeting, including the Opening General Session, and the opportunity to earn up to 19 free continuing education credits. For even more educational programming from APHA 2018, consider RAMP, which includes synced PowerPoint presentations and voice recording of scientific sessions from the San Diego meeting.