• Guest Editorial

    AAFP Continues Working for Racial Equity

    September 22, 2020, 11:32 am Scott Hartman, M.D. -- The history of institutional racism in the United States has resulted in health inequities that impact family physicians and how we serve our patients and communities. The AAFP understands the importance of this issue and takes its role in advocating about it and moving the conversation forward seriously. Through work directed by the Congress of Delegates, the AAFP's commissions and staff guide the Academy's advocacy efforts and provide support and resources to help members address health disparities.

    headshot of Scott Hartman, M.D.

    In the past few years, the AAFP's Commission on Health of the Public and Science has expanded its emphasis on health equity and, specifically, racial equity. In addition to supporting its Subcommittee on Health Equity, the commission has partnered extensively with the Academy's Center for Diversity and Health Equity, which has expanded its efforts and reach since its establishment in 2017. The center was formed after the Congress of Delegates called on the Academy to create a new office that would enhance cultural proficiency among medical teams and help increase diversity in the physician workforce.

    CHPS actually started extensively working on educating and informing its members on equity-related topics in 2015. More recently, efforts have included programs to train commission members regarding implicit bias and, subsequently, antiracism concepts to infuse an equity lens into the work they do on the commission and to enable them to bring this information to the other settings in which they serve.

    Starting this winter, all AAFP commission members and the Board of Directors will be required to attend annual antiracism and bias training. 

    This year, CHPS has taken it to the next level by engaging members in racial caucusing, as well as a series of readings and TED talks on racial equity and racial justice. Our intent is that members will utilize knowledge gained in these areas both within their state chapters and as they provide care for families and engage in local advocacy work.

    Here is a snapshot of policy work CHPS has engaged in regarding racial equity (all driven by COD resolutions) since 2018:

    Equity work with meaning and impact must include a personal learning journey, but it must also, of course, go further to include action. Although AAFP and CHPS policy development, readings, trainings and discussions will continue, we fully acknowledge that we must do more than discuss things if we want to be part of the dismantling of structural racism and oppression. We are all challenged to move into the realm of advocacy. And specifically, people in positions of power and influence must learn about and embrace their roles in allyship as we lift up communities of color. We recognize that our members of color should not be unduly saddled with the burden of standing up for justice. The duty to promote equity and justice falls on all CHPS members and on all family physicians.

    Racism greatly impacts public health and leads to a myriad of health inequities. The work of dismantling systemic racism and oppression requires massive effort, but we all must do our part. We invite other family physicians to join us in the journey.

    Scott Hartman, M.D., is chair of the AAFP's Commission on Health of the Public and Science and also serves on the New York State AFP Board of Directors. He is an associate professor of clinical family medicine and maternity care coordinator for the primary care network at the University of Rochester Medical Center in Rochester, N.Y.