NMA president: Greater effort needed to end systemic racism in health care
In the nearly 1 year since George Floyd, a Black man, lost his life while in the custody of a white police officer, there has been a nationwide awakening that racism is a public health crisis and a social determinant of health.
Local, county and state governments and the CDC have declared racism a public health threat. Employers have developed anti-racism plans. Members of Congress have introduced legislation to allow the CDC to specifically study racism’s impact on health.
Though I firmly believe these and other entities will start looking at health care with a sharper eye towards equality, there is still so much more we need to do.
We should want our country’s health professions to be supportive of anti-racism efforts and inclusive so that future health care professionals enter the workspace volunteering to take the lead or participate in anti-racism and implicit bias mitigation and active bystander training. We need to create health care environments where anti-racism, implicit bias mitigation and active bystander skill development are the expectation — not the requirement — of being an existing team member.
We also need to ensure the Affordable Care Act is fully implemented. In many of the 12 states where this has not occurred, there is a substantial Black population. For example, nearly 38% of Mississippi residents are Black. Complete access to the benefits of the ACA would help close the health care gaps that have been so widely reported and allow more entrepreneurs to follow their professional passion, not choose a career because the opportunity provides employer-based insurance.
We also need to do all we can to fully restore the Voting Rights Act and stop the occurrences of Black and brown people dying from encounters with police departments.
All of these changes will require leadership, which is probably the most important word to align with anti-racism. Those two go hand in hand.
KFF. Status of State Medicaid Expansion Decisions: Interactive Map. https://www.kff.org/medicaid/issue-brief/status-of-state-medicaid-expansion-decisions-interactive-map/. Accessed April 22, 2021.