Racism is a Public Health Issue

June 10, 2020

Media Contact:
Lauren Heberling
Communications Coordinator

The Ohio Academy of Family Physicians (OAFP) supports and stands with our members of color during this difficult time. We also support and stand with our patients and communities of color. The OAFP affirms the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) statement attributed to AAFP President Gary L. LeRoy, MD, on May 31, 2020, which reads in part:

“The American Academy of Family Physicians is deeply concerned about the prevalence of discriminatory and racist acts that are resulting in the unwarranted deaths and marginalization of people of color. Family physicians across the nation are grieving with and for their communities, and we join with our members in speaking out against all forms of institutional racism. What is happening in our communities today, and what has been happening in our country for decades, is unacceptable.”

“As a health care organization, the AAFP considers racism a public health crisis. The elimination of health disparities will not be achieved without first acknowledging racism’s contribution to health and social inequalities. This includes inequitable access to quality health care services. Our members see the negative health outcomes of racism in their patients who are often at an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, low birth weight, premature birth and infant mortality.”

“Family physicians are uniquely woven into the social fabric of their respective communities. We take seriously our mission to ensure that all of our patients and their families feel valued and respected as equal members of society. We support family physicians in their efforts to actively dismantle implicit racist and discriminatory institutional practices in their communities.”

“It is incumbent upon all of us to engage in an honest discussion about how to ensure that health outcomes and personal safety are not determined by the color of a person’s skin.”

Discriminatory policing, coupled with the use of excessive force, pose health and safety hazards to individuals and populations residing in targeted communities. This is particularly apparent for people of color and other socially marginalized groups. With regard to discriminatory policing, AAFP policy states:

“The AAFP recognizes that policing is effective in reducing crime and promoting safety when there is consistent communication, transparency, and accountability in all interactions between the police and the public they serve. However, discriminatory policing and the use of excessive force pose health and safety hazards to individuals and communities of targeted populations, particularly people of color and other minority groups.”

“The AAFP supports the recommendations outlined in President Barack Obama’s 2015 Final Report of the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing. The AAFP particularly agrees with the statement that law enforcement agencies should adopt and enforce policies prohibiting profiling and discrimination based on race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, age, gender, gender identity/expression, sexual orientation, immigration status, disability, housing status, occupation, and language fluency. The AAFP supports the universal adoption of evidence-based de-escalation techniques and the use of the lowest level of force when force becomes necessary to maintain safety.”

In collaboration with the AAFP Center for Diversity and Health Equity, the OAFP plans to host a Limiting Implicit Bias Training program in September to promote awareness of implicit bias among the entire health care team and to provide resources for mitigating the negative effects of implicit bias on patient care. Please visit the OAFP website for more information.

In a related matter, OAFP President Anna McMaster, MD, presented written testimony on June 9, 2020, to the Senate Health, Human Services and Medicaid Committee in support of Senate Concurrent Resolution 14, a resolution that declares racism a public health crisis.

Ann Spicer
Executive Vice President, Ohio Academy of Family Physicians

The Ohio Academy of Family Physicians is a statewide professional association with more than 5,200 members, including practicing physicians, family medicine residents, and medical students. The scope of family medicine encompasses all ages, both sexes, and every disease entity. Family physicians provide comprehensive, continuing care to all members of the family.