American Medical Association declares racism an ‘urgent public health threat’

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The American Medical Association on Monday announced a new policy recognizing racism as a public health threat and committed to “dismantling” racist policies and practices across healthcare.

Adopted by physicians at the AMA’s special meeting of its house delegates, this new policy goes beyond previous calls to eliminate health disparities and violence. Instead, it acknowledges racism’s role in perpetuating such harms in society as a whole, according to the association.

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

During the meeting, delegates outlined five specific steps the AMA must take to combat racism, including (1) acknowledging the harms caused by racism within medical care and research; (2) pinpointing tactics to mitigate racism’s health effects; (3) encouraging medical education to spread awareness of the topic; (4) backing policy and funding for research into racism’s health risks; and (5) preventing racism and bias from influencing technological innovations.

“As physicians and leaders in medicine, we are committed to optimal health for all, and are working to ensure all people and communities reach their full health potential,” Edwards concluded. “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.”

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