The term “racism” is rarely used in the medical literature. Most physicians are not explicitly racist and are committed to treating all patients equally. However, they operate in an inherently racist system. Structural racism is insidious, and a large and growing body of literature documents disparate outcomes for different races despite the best efforts of individual healthcare professionals. If we aim to curtail systematic violence and premature death, clinicians and researchers will have to take an active role in addressing the root cause.
Structural racism, the systems-level factors related to, yet distinct from, interpersonal racism, leads to increased rates of premature death and reduced levels of overall health and well-being. Like other epidemics, structural racism is causing widespread suffering, not only for black people and other communities of colour but for our society as a whole. It is a threat to the physical, emotional, and social well-being of every person in a society that allocates privilege on the basis of race.
Hardeman et al. believe that as clinicians and researchers, we wield power, privilege, and responsibility for dismantling structural racism — and in this New England Journal of Medicine article the authors highlight recommendations for clinicians and researchers who wish to do so.