Structural Racism and Supporting Black Lives—The Role of Health Professionals in the NEJM

In the October 12, 2016 issue of The New England Journal of Medicine, a perspectives article makes the distinction between interpersonal racism and structural racism, citing the latter as a contributor to premature death and reduced levels of overall health and well-being. Structural racism is “a confluence of institutions, culture, history, ideology and codified practices that generate and perpetuate inequity among racial and ethnic groups.” While most clinicians and researchers are committed to treating all patients equally, they practice within a racist system. So what steps, outlined in the article, can we take as clinicians and researchers take in helping to dismantle structural racism? 

  1. Learn about, understand and accept the historical roots of racism in the United States and their contribution to present-day health and healthcare disparities.
  2. Understand how racism has shaped our discussions about disparities by acknowledging that poorer health outcomes in minority populations is not secondary to intrinsic, inherited or biological processes.
  3. Define and name racism in health care and health services research, which involves using consistent and accurate definitions of race for measuring, studying and discussing race and racism and their relationship to health.
  4. “Centering at the margins”--shift our viewpoint from the majority group’s perspective to that of marginalized groups, which can be accomplished by diversifying our workforce, developing community-drive programs and research and helping these groups to gain positions of power.

Collectively, we do have the power as clinicians and researchers to make a difference!

Read the full article here: NEJM_Structural Racism

-Sherita Golden, Executive Vice Chair