AAP releases statement on the impact of racism on children’s health

Written by: Sarah Barnes
Date Posted: December 6, 2019

A recent policy statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics addresses how racism negatively impacts the health and well-being of children and youth, and how pediatricians can and should combat and address racism with and for the children and families they serve. The policy statement identifies racism as a core determinant of child health that impacts children’s short- and long-term health outcomes.

We want all children and families to have the opportunity to succeed and reach their full potential. However, some kids and families face more barriers to success than others, and often these barriers are the result of structural racism – past and present policies, practices, cultural representations, and other norms that work in various, often reinforcing ways to perpetuate racial inequities.

The policy statement defines racism as “a system of structuring opportunity and assigning value based on the social interpretation of how one looks (which is what we call ‘race’) that unfairly disadvantages some individuals and communities, unfairly advantages other individuals and communities, and saps the strength of the whole society through the waste of human resources.”

The policy statement identifies ways that pediatricians and the medical profession can disrupt systemic racism, as well as ways to address and combat the impacts of racism on the children and families they serve. These include examining their own personal biases, ensuring they create culturally safe medical homes, assessing patients for stressors associated with racism as a social determinant of health, and advocating for programs that diversify the pediatric workforce and provide ongoing professional development for pediatricians in implicit bias.

If we want to live in a world where all children and families are healthy and have access to every opportunity, we have a responsibility to address and disrupt systemic racism in public policies, practices and programs, and pediatricians and the medical profession can play a key role in this fight.

Sarah Barnes

About Sarah Barnes

Sarah serves as the Policy Analyst for the Colorado Children’s Campaign. Prior to joining the Children’s Campaign in September 2014, Sarah taught middle school English and worked as an Interventionist at Pioneer Charter School in Denver. She was a 2011 Teach For America corps member. Prior to teaching, Sarah worked as an attorney in Denver in the areas of venture capital, mergers and acquisitions, general corporate and business law, and commercial transactions. Sarah earned a BA in English from Midland University and a J.D. from the University of Michigan.