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AAP Calls for End of Race-Based Medicine

Academy seeks reflection, removal, and revision of race-based medical guidelines and practices that contribute to health disparities

May 02, 2022

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) today called for fundamental changes in the ways medicine is practiced to eliminate race-based guidelines that have contributed to disparities in care.

In a new call to action published online, AAP calls on the health care community to identify and remove race-based guidelines and practices that have negatively affected disease management and led to worse clinical outcomes.

The statement comes as health systems in Pennsylvania and across the country are working to address racial disparities and promote equity in their communities.

“Before we can legitimately address systemic and structural inequities in health care we must first recognize that they exist and are a byproduct of deeply ingrained societal racism,” said Joseph L. Wright, MD, MPH, lead author of the policy statement and chief health equity officer, the University of Maryland Medical System. “The American Academy of Pediatrics is taking an important step toward dismantling race-based medicine.”

Here’s what you need to know:

  • Rationale:  The health care community must better understand role of race and racism in medicine, and how “perceptions of physiologic differences based solely on racial phenotypes have long been intertwined in the practice and teaching of medicine.” This includes reviewing practice guidelines within pediatrics and across specialties.
  • Example in action:  The academy recently retired a guideline for urinary tract infections for infants that was based on unproven data that children of color were at lower risk.
  • What’s next?:  AAP calls on all professional organizations and medical societies to examine their policies and practice guidelines, advocating for the elimination of race-based medicine in any form.
  • Collaboration:  AAP seeks to “reframe appropriate social determinant of health measures,” working with medical schools, academic health systems, schools of medicine, and others. This includes removing and revising guidelines that include race assignment as a part of clinical decision-making.
  • Quotable:  “Eliminating race-based medicine is necessary; it is challenging; and it is long overdue,” AAP President Moira Szilagyi, MD, PhD, FAAP, said in a statement.

“Social determinants of health need to be carefully considered in the development of care delivery strategies including factors embedded in broad categories such as access, the physical environmental and community supports,” said Dr. Wright, who serves as the chair of the AAP board committee en Equity. “Evidence informed incorporation of these factors is vital in all areas of medicine.”

HAP and Pennsylvania’s hospital community join the nationwide effort to promote health equity and address disparities in care. During 2022, we are focused on identifying core racial, cultural, and ethnic disparities and taking action to address them, including efforts to address social determinants of health in our communities.

Read more about the AAP’s call to action online.