2016 Congress of Delegates

Delegates Address Discrimination, Diversity and Gun Violence

September 26, 2016 12:18 pm Chris Crawford Orlando, Fla. –

New York alternate delegate Tochi Iroku-Malize, M.D., M.P.H., M.B.A, of Islip, testifies during a Sept. 19 reference committee hearing at the 2016 AAFP Congress of Delegates that the timing is right for the Academy to make a statement about discrimination concerns.

Delegates to the 2016 Congress of Delegates here addressed a number of health policy issues, including discrimination, social determinants of health and gun violence.

Antidiscrimination, Diversity Measures

Members who participated in the Reference Committee on Health of the Public and Science hearing Sept. 19 addressed topics that have been at the forefront of the American psyche recently, including discriminatory policing, xenophobia and discrimination against members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.

It should be noted that taking a leadership role in addressing diversity is included among the four priority areas identified in the 2016 strategic plan developed by the AAFP Board of Directors.

Story highlights
  • The 2016 Congress of Delegates addressed a number of health policy issues, including discrimination, social determinants of health and gun violence.
  • Delegates adopted a new policy statement on discriminatory policing that is supported by the Department of Justice's 2015 Final Report of the President's Task Force on 21st Century Policing.
  • Delegates also asked the AAFP to establish an Office of Diversity.

During the Sept. 20 business session, delegates adopted a new policy statement on discriminatory policing that is supported by the Department of Justice's 2015 Final Report of the President's Task Force on 21st Century Policing.(www.cops.usdoj.gov) The statement says the AAFP agrees with the report's recommendation "that law enforcement agencies should adopt and enforce policies prohibiting profiling and discrimination based on race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, age, gender identity/expression, sexual orientation, immigration status, disability, housing status, occupation or language fluency."

The reference committee recommended Board referral of a substitute resolution asking the AAFP to establish an Office of Diversity that would

  • serve as the official repository for policies and information related to discrimination, diversity and cultural proficiency;
  • support members in efforts toward nondiscrimination in education, training and practice;
  • communicate messages to members and the general public; and
  • support the development and implementation of anti-discrimination and hate crime laws, as well as public policies that protect victims of discrimination.

Delegates adopted the substitute resolution and asked the Board to provide the 2017 Congress of Delegates a report on the issue.

Colorado delegate Brian Bacak, M.D., of Highlands Ranch, co-authored the original resolution and testified during the hearing that the issues of supporting diversity and addressing social determinants of health come up year after year at the Congress of Delegates.

"We ask for the creation of an Office of Diversity, among other things, that I think would represent a proactive step by the Academy toward addressing these issues that are very important to our members."

The New York chapter introduced two resolutions -- which were combined into a single substitute measure that was adopted by delegates -- asking the Academy to release statements against xenophobic and LGBT prejudice. Noting that current policy already addresses the intent of the two resolutions, the reference committee offered a substitute resolution calling for the AAFP to elevate and promote its antidiscrimination policy statements in a more visible and high-profile manner.

Original resolution co-author and New York alternate delegate Tochi Iroku-Malize, M.D., M.P.H., M.B.A, of Islip, noted that the Academy periodically releases statements on sociopolitical issues that have drawn significant public focus.

"We feel that right now, this is the perfect time for us to put out a statement," Iroku-Malize said. "If you see something, say something. We are seeing a whole lot of something going on right now; we should say something."

Also speaking in support of the original resolutions, member constituency delegate Benjamin Simmons, M.D., of Concord, N.C., said the Academy should support its National Conference of Constituency Leaders, which represents a diverse collection of minority groups, by taking a firm stance against discrimination.

"If we are going to be about it, we need to do something about it in order to support our members and the patients that we serve," he said.

Another resolution to support members and their patients, which was sponsored by nine chapters and later referred to the Board, asked the AAFP to develop a toolkit with education and resources to help assess and address the social determinants that impact patients' health.

Marie-Elizabeth Ramas, M.D., of Hollis, N.H., then the new physician member of the AAFP Board of Directors, spoke on behalf of the Board during the hearing and explained that the Academy is already developing a social determinants of health toolkit that will include a Community Health Resource Navigator -- a Web-based geographic information platform that will help identify community needs and resources.

Gun Violence

Delegates adopted a substitute resolution sponsored by the Oregon chapter that addressed gun violence as a public health issue. The substitute resolution called on the AAFP to send a letter to HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell requesting a comprehensive report on gun violence, explaining the urgent need for action to limit the number of injuries and deaths.

New physician alternate delegate Melissa Hemphill, M.D., from Portland, Ore., steps up to the mic to explain to reference committee members that as both a gun owner and a physician who has lost patients to gun violence, she believes the AAFP needs to take a strong stance to help reduce gun violence.

New physician alternate delegate Melissa Hemphill, M.D., of Portland, Ore., testified as both a gun owner and a physician who has lost patients to gun violence. "From a harm-reduction perspective and a public health perspective, we need to take a strong stance to help reduce gun violence," she said.

Other Issues

Other resolutions adopted during the business session included one asking the AAFP to update its policy on climate change and air pollution, which was written in 1969, so that it specifically addresses "greenhouse emissions from human activities."

A related measure that delegates referred to the Board asked the Academy to, among other things, offer CME and patient education materials on the adverse health consequences associated with the changing climate and the health benefits of implementing climate change solutions.

In addition, delegates adopted substitute resolutions asking the Academy to

  • officially recognize 2015-2024 as the International Decade for People of African Descent,
  • prepare a policy statement and letter to send to the U.S. Department of Agriculture advocating for alignment of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program policy with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, and
  • support the identification and treatment of oral health problems by primary care physicians by increasing education and advocacy efforts around oral health.