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COVID-19 (Disease), Racism, Public health, Satire


Satire has a history within public health and medical scholarship. However, research and academic works related to COVID-19, health inequities, and structural racism to date have not engaged/explored satire as a critical mode of reflection, analysis, and commentary. Drawing from social epidemiology literature related to structural racism, and rooted in critical race theory and critical theory related to narrative power, this paper—in the form of a "RACISM-20" fact sheet/health promotion flyer—uses satire and humor as critical commentary on mainstream public health discourse of/responses to COVID-19, transposing structural racism and COVID-19 to accentuate how individualist, apolitical, and “colorblind” downstream frames of COVID-19 risks and solutions curtail productive discourse and action to advance racial and health equity. In doing so, it trains a critical lens on how to “flatten the curve” of RACISM-20, using satire to (re)frame, critique, and extend discourse surrounding COVID-19, structural racism, and the role of public health systems in shaping narratives of causes, risk, and solutions. As such, this work presents as a potential pedagogical tool to discuss and critique dominant public health communication responses/frames during the crisis, as well as an example health promotion/education product of critical resistance and counternarrative. The hope is to invigorate productive exchange regarding interconnections between narrative power, structural causes of racial health inequities, and pervasive individualist, decontextualized, and pathologizing paradigms of health, “vulnerability,” and "risk” within discourse of COVID-19 and other matters of population health equity.


© Ryan Petteway 2020

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.


This is an unpublished manuscript currently under review.

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