WEEK 4: PUBLIC HEALTH

TODAY'S CHALLENGE:
RACISM AND BIAS IN MEDICINE TODAY

A 2016 survey of 222 white medical students and residents published in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences showed that half of the students endorsed at least one myth about physiological differences between black people and white people, including that black people’s nerve endings are less sensitive than their white counterparts. This made the providers less likely to recommend appropriate pain management treatment.

This fallacy allows scientists, doctors and other medical providers to ignore their own complicity in health care inequality and gloss over the internalized racism and both conscious and unconscious bias that drive them to go against their very oath to do no harm.

Today we will learn how a history of racism in American medicine, combined with unconscious bias from health care professionals, is impacting the quality of care that people of color receive today.

DID YOU KNOW?

In his widely circulated paper, “Report on the Diseases and Physical Peculiarities of the Negro Race,” published in the May 1851 issue of The New Orleans Medical and Surgical Journal , Samuel Cartwright, a physician and professor at the University of Louisiana (now Tulane University), cataloged supposed physical differences between whites and blacks - including the claim that black people had lower lung capacity.

To validate his theory about lung inferiority in African-Americans, he became one of the first doctors in the United States to measure pulmonary function with an instrument called a spirometer. Using a device he designed himself, Cartwright calculated that “the deficiency in the Negro may be safely estimated at 20 percent.”

Cartwright’s footprint remains embedded in current medical practice. Today most commercially available spirometers, used around the world to diagnose and monitor respiratory illness, still have a “race correction” built into the software, which controls for the assumption that blacks have less lung capacity than whites.



WE CHALLENGE YOU TO TAKE...
Watch this interview with Harriet Washington, author of Medical Apartheid , who talks about how, even though the worst medical practices of 18th and 19th centuries are over, there are still a lot of medical research studies that can be abusive.
Dangerous racial and ethnic stereotypes still exist in medicine today. Read this article to learn how they impact the care people of color receive from their healthcare providers.
This podcast explains how unconscious bias becomes dangerous in emergency medical situations where providers are much more likely to default to making decisions based on stereotypes.
PUBLIC HEALTH
WEEKLY ACTION ALERT

LEVEL 1 :   Talk to your company/organization's Human Resources Department about their parental leave policy and other systems in place to support new parents.

LEVEL 2 :  Write a letter to your local elected officials urging them to declare racism a public health crisis.

LEVEL 3 : Join Your Neighbor's Hood Podcast and Volunteer Hampton Roads in an effort to build relationships and continue the conversation around race by hosting Just Dinner .

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