Health professionals have a responsibility to fight the racism that contributes to poor health, writes Mary T. Bassett, MD, MPH, New York City's health commissioner, in a recent New England Journal of Medicine commentary.
Bassett challenges the medical and public health communities to help ensure that black lives matter.
The legacy of exclusion of and discrimination against people of African descent shapes patterns of disease distribution and mortality, Bassett explains. “There is great injustice in the daily violence experienced by young black men,” she writes, and medical treatment disparities constitute another tragedy.
She notes that in New York City, the rate of premature death is 50% higher among black men than among white men—a gap that reflects dramatic disparities in many health outcomes, including cardiovascular disease, cancer, and HIV. Black women in the City, she adds, are still more than 10 times as likely as white women to die in childbirth.
Bassett outlines 3 types of action through which health professionals can make a difference: critical research, internal reform, and public advocacy.
The New England Journal of Medicine
Ed. Note: Thanks to the alert reader who suggested we run this article after reading our note on Baltimore’s riots that followed the tragic death of Freddie Gray in police custody. The reader also recommended:
Nonviolence as Compliance by Ta-Nehisi Coates, National Correspondent, The Atlantic
Black Riot by Raven Rakia, Writer and Filmmaker, The New Inquiry