Have you ever asked yourself, what is race? What are the multiple levels at which racism occurs? Does race or racism impact health outcomes? Why are race and racism important to understand when caring for children and adolescents? These are all questions the recent Pediatrics in Review article, “The Intersection of Race, Racism and Child and Adolescent Health,” helps answer. Answers which I believe are important to understand in order to truly achieve health equity.
Perhaps you are like me and think these are terms and concepts with which you are very familiar and wonder what more you need to learn. While I have learned a lot about race from my lived experience as a Black woman, I have also come to realize that to fully appreciate the racialized experience, race and racism require a critical analysis both in an historical and contemporary context. Through this analysis, we can then understand the impact of race and racism on education, employment, and, of course, health. Present day experiences of people of color in this country, including those who identify as Black, Indigenous, Latino/a and Asian, do not happen in a vacuum. In fact, the authors explain how historical trauma within health care as well as structural racism, which in some instances has persisted across multiple generations, has impacts on child and adolescent health that are still seen (and dare I say felt) today. The article describes the impacts of trauma, provider bias, and structural racism (not race) on health disparities as well as how race has shown up in the way medicine has been studied, taught, and practiced. The authors don’t stop there; they go on to provide strategies that have demonstrated to be effective to help address the impact of racism on child and adolescent health.
As someone committed to lifelong learning, I believe there is and always will be something I can learn. What I have also come to appreciate is that “unlearning” can be just as important. As you approach this article, I encourage you to be open to both – gaining a new understanding of terms and concepts that have become a regular part of our daily lexicon, and challenging, perhaps re-thinking, what you may have previously been taught about what certain words and concepts mean, especially as they relate to health, health care, and health outcomes.
While you may know a lot about these concepts from your lived and/or professional experience, I hope you find something new or enlightening that you can take away from this article. If nothing else, I believe you will find it to be a helpful tool in your scholarly armamentarium, which you will be able to reference often, whether for your personal scholarship, medical education, or practical application as you seek to address racism in medicine. Rarely does a day go by that I do not take another step on this continuous journey of personal and professional transformation to help achieve more equitable outcomes for all people. This article helped me take a big leap forward. I believe it will do the same for you.