The American Medical Association (AMA) has voted to recognize racism as a “public health threat” and pledged to “actively work on dismantling racist policies.” Some cheered the decision, while others were dismayed by the move.
The new policy rules, adopted on Monday, are aimed at combating racist policies and practices across all US healthcare, according to a press release on the AMA website.
“The AMA recognizes that racism negatively impacts and exacerbates health inequities among historically marginalized communities,” said Board Member Dr Willarda V. Edwards during a meeting of the AMA’s House of Delegates, adding that, without systemic changes, “the overall health of the nation will suffer.”
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Among other things, the association vowed to acknowledge “the harm caused by racism and unconscious bias within medical research,” to encourage medical education curricula to “promote greater understanding” of the topic, and to work to prevent the influence of racism and bias in “health technology innovation.” The AMA also highlighted three forms of racism in health care: “systemic,” “cultural,” and “interpersonal.”
Reaction to the AMA’s decision was predictably polarized on social media, with some cheering the move while others raised their eyebrows in confusion at why it was deemed necessary.
Some commenters complained about what they saw as the politicization of science.
“Do I need to get a yearly checkup for racism? Is there a vaccine yet?” quipped one critic on Twitter.
I’m just asking since the American medical association had declared racism a public health threat, do I need to get a yearly check up for racism? Is there a vaccine yet?
— dan mccrory (@danmccrory6) November 17, 2020
Others were alarmed by the AMA’s move, speculating that it could outright subvert healthcare, as ‘racism’ would be interpreted differently by each physician.
This is going to go over really well. Especially when doctors and nurses can read people’s racism based on what they don’t say or do. How long before the Hippocratic oath is rewritten with the Anti-Racist theme?
— ⚔️The Dunedain Ranger⚔️ (@DunedainRanger9) November 17, 2020
No, I agree with the AMA. It is a serious mental health issue for those who see racism absolutely everywhere.
— S brook (@spbrook1) November 17, 2020
One commenter pondered whether the AMA was going to address racial disparities in health, claiming white people were getting the short end of the stick and pointing to Asian Americans and Hispanics as having longer life expectancies.
The AMA says racism explains health disparities between racial groups.
Fact: Asian-Americans and Hispanics live longer than whites.
I guess this means that the AMA is going to address the effects of racism on white health and longevity?
— A New Radical Centrism (@a_centrism) November 17, 2020
Others again were ecstatic about the development, saying the AMA had “made history,” and racism being classified as a public health threat was a long time coming and could save lives.
Wow. We have know this for some time but that an organization like the AMA would help bring it to the light of day is significant😊
— Shawn Winnick🌊🌊 (@swinnickmd) November 17, 2020
Better four hundred years late than never https://t.co/W4TJ2OTCWz
— Sissy is Embarrassed By Shih Tzu Say (@sissyroxx) November 17, 2020
In the realm of US healthcare, the claim is often made that minorities face discrimination by doctors and other medical staff, and are not taken as seriously as white patients when describing their symptoms, leading to avoidable complications.
The AMA finally decided to address racism. Perhaps in 10yrs a Black person in pain will be treated as if that’s true. https://t.co/0QLb1iyvx6
— Angela Roberts🌊🏳️🌈📖 WE WON!! (@AngelaRR56) November 17, 2020
Black patients in the USA are more likely to die when being treated by white doctors than by any other race 🙆🏽♂️🙆🏽♂️🙆🏽♂️🙆🏽♂️🙆🏽♂️🙆🏽♂️ https://t.co/NoWpg7CkPp
— 🇿🇦TheGreatDlamini🇿🇦 (@TheGr8Dlamini) November 17, 2020
Yet some thought the move came “too little too late” to dismantle already established practices.
Too little too late.
They will not do ANYTHING to dismantle scientific racism, medical racism, and white supremacy in the following:
Medical-health academic programs, medical-health trainings, medical-health facilities and organizations, horrible community-patient treatment
— Dr. Kimya Nuru Dennis 365 Diversity (@365DiversityLLC) November 17, 2020
One commenter simply made light of the AMA’s decision in the greater context of the US for-profit healthcare system, joking that racism was a preexisting condition, so insurance providers would not cover it.
Yeah but its a pre existing condition so insurance won’t cover it. 🤪😜
— estee tabernac (@esteetabernac) November 17, 2020
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