AMCHP was disheartened by the recent tweet promoting a JAMA podcast that denies the existence of racism among our nation’s physicians. While JAMA has since pulled the podcast down and issued an apology, this unfortunate occurrence highlights the great need for change and the work that lies ahead.
Indeed, racism is hard baked into our nation’s health care system. The physical and mental health of Black communities and other communities of color related to intergenerational and chronic toxic stress caused by individual, systemic, and structural racism is well documented and should no longer need to be debated. The delivery of messages suggesting that racism is non-existent and, therefore, non-problematic within the medical field is harmful to our communities and those we serve.
To disrupt racism, all health care professionals and the institutions within which they work must acknowledge that racism does exist and has existed in our health care practices and policies, and actively commit to addressing racism and discrimination. Enacting quality improvement efforts that track outcomes by race/ethnicity and provide feedback to practitioners as well as discussions on implicit bias for health care professionals and the development of institutional policies and medical protocols that serve to reduce bias and other harmful subjectivities in the delivery of medical services are vital first steps in the necessary and humane direction.
The field of public health is not immune to racism and we have work to do, too. AMCHP has written more about that here. Failure to acknowledge racism blinds us to the true causes of racial inequities in health outcomes, hinders any efforts to eliminate these pernicious injustices, and will place institutions and systems unwilling to make these admissions and adjustments on the wrong side of history.