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Call for Papers

Systemic Racism and Health Security During COVID-19

A Special Feature in Health Security

Brought to you by the Johns Hopkins Centers for Health Security, Health Equity, American Indian Health, and Public Health and Human Rights

The ongoing coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has substantially damaged population health, social fabrics, economies, and health systems across the world. In the United States, many of these costs are overwhelmingly borne by racially marginalized populations. These groups report disproportionately higher levels of COVID-19 morbidity and mortality as a result of ineffective response efforts and decades-long failures to address longstanding inequities in access to healthcare and other social safety net programs. Peer-reviewed research that examines the root causes of racial inequities in COVID-19-associated morbidity and mortality—and the systems that perpetuate them—is urgently needed.

In its May/June 2021 issue, Health Security will be devoting an open access special feature to examining how systemic racism is manifested in the practice of health security in the United States and how it has affected preparedness for, responses to, and recovery from COVID-19. We seek original analyses of methods, programs and program implementation, research efforts, and systems approaches addressing systemic racism in US health security and epidemic response policymaking and practice. Narrative or conceptual reviews of specific policies related to systemic racism in health security are also welcome. Any racially marginalized population in the United States—including, but not limited to, Black, Latinx, Asian, American Indian, and Alaska Native populations—may be the focus of submitted manuscripts. Analyses of intersections between these groups and other dimensions of vulnerability—such as incarceration, statelessness, unemployment, or homelessness—as they relate to COVID-19 preparedness, detection, response, and recovery in the United States are also welcome. We especially encourage submissions from women, underrepresented minority scholars in health security, and scholars with disabilities.

Potential topics of interest include:

  • Health disparities: How have underlying, longstanding health inequities exacerbated COVID-19 morbidity and mortality among racially marginalized populations in the United States? What approaches could be used to address this phenomenon in the future?
  • Surveillance and testing: How have testing, contact tracing, and serosurveillance efforts systematically failed to identify cases in predominantly Black, Latinx, Indigenous, and/or other racially marginalized communities in the United States? What approaches could be used to address gaps in these public health interventions within racially marginalized communities?
  • Risk communication: How or why have current pandemic communication strategies and campaigns failed to meet the needs of marginalized communities? What approaches should be used to effectively communicate with these communities?
  • Environmental injustice: How have environmental inequalities contributed to disproportionate COVID-19 impacts in low-income communities and marginalized communities, and what approaches could address identified problems?
  • Medical research: What are the challenges associated with carrying out clinical trials and community trials of novel COVID-19 medical countermeasures, amid historical tensions between marginalized communities and the US medical research enterprise? What strategies or lessons learned could help foster diversity in medical countermeasure research among marginalized communities?
  • Public health and law enforcement: In what ways do public health measures such as outbreak investigation and contact tracing rely on law enforcement, and do these practices negatively affect racially marginalized populations? How should health security policy and practice consider connections between systemic racism, police brutality, and burdens of COVID-19?
  • Harm reduction: What lessons may be learned from other pandemics (eg, HIV/AIDS) regarding harm reduction that may be applicable in the COVID-19 context in the United States?
  • Workforce: To what extent and how has limited racial diversity in the US public health workforce impacted public trust in health institutions and affected efforts to reach at-risk communities during major outbreaks? What are workable proposals to expand diversity within the public health workforce?
  • Social safety net measures: To what extent and how have school and business closures disproportionately affected minority and marginalized populations? To what extent and how have pandemic economic relief measures (eg, stimulus checks, business loan programs) benefited or failed them, and how could gaps be addressed in the future?

Submissions addressing other effects of systemic racism in health security as they relate to COVID-19 in the United States are also welcome.

Questions concerning this special feature may be directed to Lane Warmbrod ( or Sanjana Ravi (

Health Security, published by Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., is a bi‐monthly peer‐reviewed journal, now in its 18th year of publication. It serves as an international forum for debate and exploration of the key strategic, scientific, and operational issues posed by biological weapons, pandemics and emerging infectious diseases, natural disasters, and other threats to global health. The journal provides multidisciplinary analyses and perspectives essential to the creation of strategies and programs that can diminish the consequences of health emergencies, epidemics, and disasters.

The journal’s international audience includes those professional communities that have strategic, scientific, or operational responsibilities critical to improving health security, including medicine, public health, law, national security, bioscientific research, agriculture, food safety, and drug and vaccine development.

Health Security is indexed in MEDLINE; PubMed; PubMed Central; Current Contents®/Social & Behavioral Sciences; Social Sciences Citation Index®; Social SciSearch®; Journal Citation Reports/Social Sciences Edition; EMBASE/Excerpta Medica; EMBiology; Scopus; ProQuest; CAB Abstracts; and Global Health.

Information for authors: The special journal section devoted to systemic racism and health security will be published in the May/June 2021 issue of Health Security. Scholarly and review articles, descriptions of practice, and opinion and commentary pieces are welcome. Commentaries should be no longer than 2,500 words, and original articles no longer than 5,000 words, exclusive of the abstract, tables, figures, and references. Please consult the journal website for specific submission instructions (

Deadline for article submission: Papers must be submitted by January 31, 2021, to



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