Attention, doctors: Here’s what an antiracist approach would look like

In a November 4, 2020 Health Affairs blog, four experts proposed several ways that the medical community can adopt an antiracist approach to clinical care. They urged health care workers to recognize racism’s historical roots, identify racism among health care providers and within medical systems, then work to dismantle it.

David R. Williams, Florence Sprague Norman and Laura Smart Norman Professor of Public Health and chair of the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, was a co-author of the blog.

Noting that the coronavirus pandemic has exposed the racist structures, policies, and ideologies that are leading to disproportionate rates of death and disease among Black people, the authors offered five suggestions:

  • Learn the legacy of racism in American medicine to avoid perpetuating it.
  • Admit to being racist to become antiracist.
  • Slow down: Pause to heighten racial consciousness and prepare for challenging racism.
  • Identify and oppose racism at the individual, institutional, and policy level.
  • Involve hospitals and health care institutions in human capital and economic development in local communities.

An antiracist approach to medical care cannot overcome the structural racism embedded within the U.S. nor rectify centuries of oppression and injustice, said the authors. But, they wrote,
“By admitting to being racist in order to become anti-racist, we can redirect the weight of our authority to get off Black people’s necks and to protect them instead. We encourage similar approaches focused on other racial, sexual, and gender minority communities, too.”

Read the Health Affairs blog: Getting Our Knees Off Black People’s Necks: An Anti-Racist Approach to Medical Care