New AMA policy seeks to fight systemic, cultural, and interpersonal racism

CHICAGO — The American Medical Association (AMA) called racism a threat to public health as the organization adopted a new policy aimed at dismantling health inequities in the U.S.

This is not the first time in 2020 that the AMA has taken a strong stance against racism — as Black Lives Matter protests swept the nation in the wake of the killing of George Floyd in May, AMA Immediate Past Chair Jesse M. Ehrenfeld, MD, MPH, and Immediate Past President Patrice A. Harris, MD, MA, issued a statement acknowledging the public health consequences of police brutality, and the organization’s board of trustees followed up with a pledge to combat racism and police brutality in early June.

“The new policy approved by the AMA, representing physicians and medical students from every state and medical specialty, opposes all forms of racism as a threat to public health and calls on AMA to take prescribed steps to combat racism, including: (1) acknowledging the harm caused by racism and unconscious bias within medical research and health care; (2) identifying tactics to counter racism and mitigate its health effects; (3) encouraging medical education curricula to promote a greater understanding of the topic; (4) supporting external policy development and funding for researching racism’s health risks and damages; and (5) working to prevent influences of racism and bias in health technology innovation,” the AMA explained in a press release.

The new AMA policy specifically addresses the public health consequences of systemic, cultural, and interpersonal racism, which the organizations defined as follows:

  • “Systemic racism: structural and legalized system that results in differential access to goods and services, including health care services.
  • “Cultural racism: negative and harmful racial stereotypes portrayed in culturally shared media and experiences.
  • “Interpersonal racism: implicit and explicit racial prejudice, including explicitly expressed racist beliefs and implicitly held racist attitudes and actions based upon or resulting from these prejudices.”

The policy calls for the AMA to identify best practices for health care institutions and practices to help mitigate the impact of racism, and it also offers guidance on developing and implementing medical education programs “that generate a deeper understanding of the causes, influences and effects of all forms of racism—and how to prevent and improve the health effects of racism.

“Further, the policy asks that AMA support the creation of external policy to combat racism and its effects and encourage federal agencies and other organizations to expand research funding into the epidemiology of risks and damages related to racism,” the AMA wrote. “Additionally, the policy asserts that the AMA will work to prevent, and protect against the influences of racism and bias in innovative health technologies.”

The AMA acknowledged that dismantling racism in the U.S. is a monumental task requiring more resources and power than any single organization holds, urging other health organizations to “also take up the mantle of intolerance for racism as it pushes upstream to dismantle racism across all of health care — driving the future of medicine toward anti-racism.”

“Without systemic and structural-level change, health inequities will continue to exist, and the overall health of the nation will suffer,” said AMA Board Member Willarda V. Edwards, MD, MBA, in a statement. “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. 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.”

John McKenna, Associate Editor, BreakingMED™

Cat ID: 151

Topic ID: 88,151,585,730,192,151,590,925