AMA releases road map for improving racial justice, advancing health equity

The American Medical Association (AMA) released a three-year road map to improving racial justice and advancing health equity, starting from within its organization.

The plan outlines five strategic approaches to begin addressing these challenges to dismantle structural racism.

In fact, part of the outlined reform includes acknowledging the AMA’s past harms and an in-depth look at the institutional roles currently upholding these structures.

“Our bold and necessary path forward seeks to pivot from ambivalence to urgent action; from euphemisms to explicit conversations about power, racism, gender and class oppression, forms of discrimination and exclusion; from passive to specific action supported by resource redistribution and infrastructure change; from rationalization and good intentions to a comprehensive analysis of structures, systems, policies and practices leading to real improvement and impact; and from lack of accountability to an active embrace of equity as a core mission and strategy,” the report states.

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The first of five outlined approaches is to expand capacity for understanding and implement anti-racist equity strategies via practices, programming, policies and culture within the medical community.

Second, the AMA will create alliances with marginalized physicians and stakeholders by building coalitions that elevate the experiences and ideas of historically marginalized healthcare leaders.

Third, the organization will push to address all determinants of health and the root causes of inequities by equipping physicians with the knowledge and tools for dismantling social drivers that lead to these health inequities.

Fourth, the AMA will ensure equitable structures and opportunities to advancing digital health.

Finally, the AMA will foster pathways for truth, racial healing, reconciliation and transformation for AMA’s past. In other words, acknowledge wrongdoings.

“We anticipate that many pieces of the plan will be challenging to execute and implement, but that’s what we signed up for with this three-year road map,” Aletha Maybank, M.D., chief health equity officer, AMA, told Fierce Healthcare. “Our plan aims to confront, dismantle and heal from inequitable systems that the AMA played a part in creating. This will undoubtedly require hard work over a long period of time to develop lasting solutions amid a constantly changing medical landscape. The strategic plan is meant to plant initial seeds for action and accountability, but we hope the work will extend much further than that—embedding racial justice and advancing health equity for years to come.”  

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The plan for increasing equity originated in 2019, when the AMA launched its Center for Health Equity as a force to look at racism and the oppression of Black, Latinx, Indigenous, Asian and other people of color, as well as people who identify themselves as LGBTQ+ and persons of disabilities. While they always existed, the push for improving inequities in the healthcare community became even more exacerbated by the pandemic and the number of hate crimes seen in the U.S. over the past year.

“Embedding equity is an all-hands-on-deck effort that will enable AMA to further our impact on behalf of all people in our country—but especially those who have historically been marginalized. AMA leaders are creating opportunities to embed equity into our ongoing work so that equity serves as an accelerator of everything we do to improve the health of our nation,” AMA CEO and Executive Vice President James Madara, M.D., said in a press release.

In order to make sure these five strategic goals are met, the AMA has created internal performance indicators and evaluation metrics and tools to measure success and impact, while maintaining transparency and accountability.

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But will the expectations be met?

“Seeing the response now that it the strategic plan is out, I am feeling a bit relieved and pleased that it has been received very well. I am also feeling increased pressure regarding the accountability of the entire plan; actually doing the work is very much reliant on many other people,” Maybank said. “The ability to motivate and inspire all of us to do better and be better and to listen, act, and be accountable is critical to any success regarding the strategic plan. As one of the quotes goes, ‘We will be misled by thinking we can change society without changing ourselves.’ This is the point when real leadership happens—having that humility that there is always more for us to learn and to grow into and from.”

“To move forward, we must prioritize and integrate the voices and ideas of people and communities experiencing great injustice and historically excluded, exploited, and deprived of needed resources such as people of color, women, people with disabilities, LGBTQ+, and those in rural and urban communities alike,” states the report.