Systemic Racism & Healthcare Reform

2020.06.11 Tufts_Medical_Center_staff_cheer_on_Boston_George_Floyd_Protest
Tufts Medical Center staff cheer on Boston George Floyd Protest, May 31, 2020

“Slavery has produced a legacy of racism, injustice, and brutality that runs from 1619 to the present, and that legacy infects medicine as it does all social institutions… Now, amid an acute public health crisis that is transforming medicine, perhaps we have an opportunity to reset our priorities to face this deeper, more chronic crisis as well.”

So write the editors of America’s most distinguished medical publication, the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM).  Their message resonates with the current widespread public outrage over another vestige of that legacy, namely endemic excessive lethal force directed by some police at African-Americans.

Fixing U.S. Healthcare blog has railed against inefficiencies in the U.S. healthcare system that result in soaring spending. This blog has blamed structural economic and political factors as the root cause. And it has identified a subtle but real racial bias in some arguments against reform.

And so readers of this blog will not be surprised at NEJM editors’ calling out structural racism throughout the healthcare system

  • Inattention of even well-meaning physicians to the psychological and social toxicity – not to mention biological ravages – of chronic unjust discrimination
  • Other adverse social determinants of health impinging upon African-Americans
  • Inadequate educational pathways for African-American children into healthcare careers
  • Disparities in medical academia – admissions rates, faculty appointments, research funding
  • Unresponsiveness to efforts advocating for remedies to structural racial disparities in the healthcare system.

Along with the NEJM editors, this blog sees a convergence between fixing U.S. healthcare and fixing U.S. structural racism.


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Image Credit

Title:  Tufts Medical Center staff cheer on Boston George Floyd Protest

By:  GorillaWarfare / CC BY (



5 thoughts on “Systemic Racism & Healthcare Reform

  1. Readers of this post will be interested in a new Perspective from the New England Journal of Medicine from July 22, 2020, entitled, “Covid-19 and Health Equity.” Link: .

    Drs. Berkowitz, Cené, and Chatterjee write, “To achieve health equity, we need to reach beyond the health care system — and think big.” These authors are self-described as “physicians with diverse identities (Jewish male, Black female, and South Asian American male) whose work focuses on health equity, [who] are acutely aware that our profession failed when vulnerable people needed us.”


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