Call for Anti-Racist Health Care

Call for Anti-Racist Health Care

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Elsen Jacob started this petition to AMA and

Racism is interwoven into the fabric of our nation’s healthcare system. Racism is a public health issue and healthcare is a racist system. We demand accountability, and change by those involved in the creation and propagation of racism in healthcare. 

We are concerned that training of medical and healthcare disciplines propagates racism, and in doing so can harm and injure minorities, especially Black patients. 

Here are a few facts from recent literature:

1. About half the medical trainees surveyed in a 2016 survey had the false belief that Black people’s skins are thicker than white people’s, Black people’s nerve endings are less sensitive than white people’s and Black people’s blood coagulates more quickly than white people’s.

2. A 2015 study revealed that Black children were less likely than white children to receive pain medication in the emergency room while being treated for appendicitis.

3. A 2012 meta analysis and systematic review noted that Blacks/African Americans were 22% less likely than Whites to receive any pain medications or opioids for similar painful conditions.

4. A 2007 study found that physicians were more likely to underestimate the pain of Black patients compared with other patients.

5. Black women are 3 to 4 times as likely than white women to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women.

6. Black women are far less likely to have breast cancer, yet are 40% more likely to die from it.

7. Black women are 22% more likely to die from heart disease than a white woman.

8. Black women are 71% more likely to die from cervical cancer than a white woman.

9. An analysis of textbooks showed the percentage of images of dark skin ranged from 4% to 18%. Yet Black skin is more often used in textbooks to depict sexually transmitted diseases.

10. Although race is a social not biological construct, there are ‘race corrections’ in cardiology, cardiac surgery, nephrology, obstetrics, urology, oncology, endocrinology and pulmonology.

This needs to change. Patients deserve equitable treatment. Guidelines, calculators, etc. need to be evaluated and appropriately rectified through an anti-racist lens.

Health professional students deserve to learn from textbooks and material that addresses issues of racism and appropriately represents darker skin tones. Faculty must teach students about differences in dermatological presentation of conditions in darker skin tones. Schools must educate students on racism and it’s harms to the human body. Optional implicit bias and cultural competency training is not enough.

Students deserve to learn from faculty who can educate them on issues of racism, and nurture them to become anti-racist clinicians. As such, all health professional schools and training programs must pledge to increase hiring of BIPOC faculty.

Funding agencies must increase funding for research on racism and it’s impact on health. 

Finally, the AMA, NIH, CDC, and other societies, organizations, associations and institutions need to publicly apologize and atone for past mistakes. Also, entities need to diversify boards, leadership, educators and student bodies. 

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