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American Medical Association recognizes racism as a public health threat

The association of physicians acknowledged that systematic racism in healthcare is an “urgent” crisis.

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The American Medical Association has recognized racism as an “urgent” threat to public health. In a new statement, the country’s largest association of physicians acknowledged that systemic and structural racism are the “primary drivers of racial health inequity.”

“The AMA recognizes that racism negatively impacts and exacerbates health inequities among historically marginalized communities,” Board Member Dr. Willarda V. Edwards said. “Without systemic and structural-level change, health inequities will continue to exist and the overall health of the nation will suffer.”

Edwards went on to say that as physicians “committed to optimal health for all,” it was necessary for the association to recognized the disparities in healthcare driven by racism.

“Declaring racism as an urgent public health threat is a step in the right direction toward advancing equity in medicine and public health, while creating pathways for truth, healing and reconciliation,” Edwards added.

Also in the statement, the AMA laid out their new plan to encourage the funding, educating and supporting of resources that recognize the effects of racism in medical research and healthcare and seek to correct them.

“The AMA is dedicated to dismantling racist and discriminatory policies and practices across all of healthcare, and that includes the way we define race in medicine,” Board Member Michael Suk said. “We believe it is not sufficient for medicine to be nonracist, which is why the AMA is committed to pushing for a shift in thinking from race as a biological risk factor to a deeper understanding of racism as a determinant of health.”

Furthermore, the association also called out police brutality as a specific threat to the health of marginalized Americans.

“The data make clear that police brutality – one manifestation of systemic racism – has significant public health consequences for impacted communities, particularly among the Black community,” Board Member Willie Underwood III added. “The AMA is dedicated to actively working on dismantling racist policies and practices across all of healthcare, and we call on stakeholders to make systemic changes to protect public health and combat the detrimental effects that racism and communal violence have on the health of the nation.”

Read the AMA’s full statement here.

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