Like all of you, I am watching the tragic events unfolding in Minneapolis and other cities with both sadness and alarm. Sadness that we as a nation must still combat racism, discrimination and violence toward black and brown people. And alarm in what we as pediatricians know are racism’s profound impacts on children and adolescents.
As AAP stated last year in our policy statement "Racism and Its Impact on Child and Adolescent Health,” racism’s societal impact, particularly on communities of color and populations that are historically disenfranchised, is wide-reaching, systemic, and complex. A growing body of scientific research has found that racism harms children’s mental and physical health in myriad ways. We are watching this play out now, in real time, and we cannot avoid a deep examination of how to improve the role of policing. Systemic violence requires systemic responses.
These events are occurring in the context of a global pandemic, which has also crystalized the uneven access to health care experienced by so many people of color in this country. COVID-19 is having a more severe impact on both illness and death among racial and ethnic minority groups. The same economic and social conditions that contribute to health disparities overall become exacerbated during a public health emergency. These and other structural factors prevent people from accessing the resources they need to protect themselves during an outbreak.
In addition to the work we are all doing to create medical homes that are welcoming and culturally effective, we must also advocate at the local, state and federal level for equitable policies that reduce disparities and advance social justice. We must also level our expertise to collaborate with first responders, including law enforcement, around the fundamental tenets of child and adolescent development particularly as relates to background, culture and difference. We must counsel and support our patients, especially our adolescents and young adults, and their families, to help ameliorate the impact of racism on all our lives. This is essential work if we are to make our nation one where the health of all children is valued and supported.
Unraveling racism requires a great investment from all of us. As president of the AAP, I am committed to doing this work alongside each of you.
Sally Goza, MD, FAAP President, American Academy of Pediatrics