The JAMA podcast and its aftermath raise questions of the knowledge and attitude of physicians, public health practitioners and institutions regarding health disparities and racism in healthcare. Being unaware or ignoring the social, political and historical factors that impact health outcomes today is malefic to improving health equity.

In advertising the podcast, JAMA’s former editor said, “No physician is racist, so how can there be structural racism in healthcare?” This uninformed and biased viewpoint negates the lived experiences of many consumers of healthcare.

JAMA’s podcast (now removed from the site) further suggested that pointing to systemic racism as the root cause of health disparities is divisive. This ignores the scientific basis laid out in the body of research on health disparities.

Furthermore, to maintain that mentioning the role of racism in health disparities could be disruptive or divisive is bound to stifle the speech of those working in public health who strive to highlight the scientific knowledge and advocate for justice.

Comprehending systemic racism as a root cause of health disparities is a rich paradigm that can lead to more integrated public policy solutions. Policy solutions should be evidence-based, culturally responsive and rely on the existing research.

We call upon all health institutions and personnel, especially those who serve marginalized communities, to:

  1. Educate themselves and their staff comprehensively on the issue of structural racism and health disparities,

  2. Ensure their staff can discuss the evidence basis openly and without fear of reprisals, and

  3. Institute cultural humility advocacy learning beyond cultural competency and unconscious bias training.

Learn more here.

– AzPHA’s Community Health Justice Committee

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