The country’s leading pediatricians’ organization is calling for the elimination of the use of race in making medical assessments, saying the practice is “flawed science” and stems from systemic and structural inequities that drive racial health disparities.
“Racism has infiltrated and impacted health care delivery and outcomes in this country for more than 400 years,” the American Academy of Pediatrics said in a policy statement published online Monday. “The inclusion of race in algorithms and guidelines that direct clinical practice explicitly acknowledges this connection.”
The academy’s statement offers additional momentum to a movement in the medical field seeking to acknowledge and address the issue of race correction in medicine.
Despite being widely accepted as a problematic practice, the use of race in medicine has persisted. Critics contend race-based clinical calculations overlook social determinants of health and structural racism that drive health disparities, and can result in patients of color receiving less access to and poorer quality of care than their white counterparts.
Within its statement, the AAP vows to examine and revise all practice guidelines and policies that include “race assignment as a part of clinical decision-making.”
The group also calls for pediatricians to seek continuing medical education on health equity and assess their own care delivery practices to identify and eliminate potential clinical decisions that are made using race.
“The integration of health equity principles into practice is vital to address the structural and systemic inequities that drive disparities among children of color and minoritized populations in general,” the statement says. “Race-based approaches to the delivery of clinical care are a tangible outgrowth of these long present inequities across the health care landscape.”
The academy is also calling for other professional health care organizations and medical societies to commit to reviewing their own policies and guidelines and to advocate for the end of race-based medicine.
The statement says the AAP already has retired a clinical algorithm that “inappropriately inserted race” and was used in the diagnosis and management of urinary tract infections in infants and children.
“The American Academy of Pediatrics is taking an important step toward dismantling race-based medicine,” Dr. Joseph Wright, chair of the AAP Board Committee on Equity and the policy statement’s lead author, said in a release. “This effort calls for acknowledging the impact that differential lived experiences have on individual and population health outcomes through a race-conscious health equity lens rather than through approaches that have inappropriately identified skin color as an independent risk-adjusting variable.”