Racism Is Officially a Public Health Threat, but Will Healthcare See Changes?

Photo Courtesy: Pacific Press/LightRocket/Getty Images

On November 16, 2020, the American Medical Association (AMA) officially designated racism a public health threat. As the country’s largest group of physicians and medical professionals, the AMA aims to promote the "betterment of public health," and it found that racism results in major discrepancies in the quality of care white people and people of color receive. This announcement is a meaningful one in large part because it’s official recognition from a respected leader at the top level of the healthcare industry. And it’s coming from the level where, when changes are made, there’s greater potential for far-reaching, positive shifts that could more thoroughly combat the historic marginalization of people of color and their treatment in the healthcare sphere.

During a year when we’ve had the privilege of witnessing what quickly grew into the largest civil rights movement in American history — a movement that’s seen millions of people come together to demand deep, lasting change and racial justice — many of us have realized the importance of actively working to combat racism in all forms. In doing so, it’s essential that we take the time to learn about the roles society’s biggest institutions play in impacting the lives of people of color.

The AMA is one of these institutions, and its recent announcement could help drive long-overdue change. Yes, it’ll take time to begin implementing and facilitating policies that’ll lead to those changes. But as that process finds its footing, it’s important to gain a deeper understanding of the potential these changes have, along with how the AMA intends to pursue them.