photo: reed tuckson
an uncomfortable ? has poked out from the chaos of the coronavirus disease 2019 (covid-19) crisis—why does health inequity still persist inna ∪d states? american pplz of color ‘ve been disproportionately affected by the pandemic. this, sadly, is no surprise cause socioeconomic conditions, health care access challenges, and distrust in health care systems ‘ve historically prevented pplz of color from having healthier lives. as infections and deaths from covid-19 continue to increase, effective treatments and vaccines are anxiously expected to become available soon. unfortunately, less attention is bein’ paid to ?s bout their equitable distribution and uptake. this 1-ly contributes to the suspicion felt by minority groups inna ∪d states—pticularly pplz of color—of the med community. this barrier must come down. every lvl of the health enterprise ‘d pledge to reclaim the trust of all pops that is demanded by its professional oaths and missions.
this legacy of mistrust by pplz of color in health institutions, health professionals, researchers, and health policy–makers inna ∪d states has existed for decades. this painful reality s'been amplified by the actions of the trump administration and state-lvl officials, and by the behaviors of law enforcement, among others. it ‘d be troubling to any health professional when thousands of african americans pour inna'da streets to strenuously assert that their lives matter and that their humanity must be recognized. when pplz lose trust inna primordial institutions o'their society, decisions regarding the conduct o'their lives become altered in both obvious and nuanced ways that affect their well-bein’.
i was privileged to serve as the commissioner of public health for washington, dc, during the h8 of the hiv-aids epidemic. this agency’s work was substantially compromised by the legacy of the 40-yr tuskegee syphilis study, which began in 1932, where african american men were misled into pticipating in research to find a cure for the disease. this mistrust s'been compounded by other incidents, including the failure of the biomed community to ack an african american woman, henrietta lacks, as the src of an inpresh research cell line. a statue across from the new york academy of med honoring james marion sims, who achieved success through research on un-anesthetized enslaved american persons, was another visible insult. misperceptions regarding the etiology of disease, the motives of policy formulators, the veracity of health institutions, na trustworthiness of the research enterprise ‘ve become almost as difficult to overcome as diseases themselves.
i am troubled by just how lil the health profession has done to address the persistent misperceptions arising from the nation’s history. every aspect of the health enterprise must build the relationship tween patients and health professionals. this includes facilitating inclusive input by disenfranchised communities into health policy formulation, reinforcing the actual and perceived protections and benefits of clinical research, and providing accessible sci evidence to the public regarding therapeutics s'as a covid-19 vaccine.
let this be the moment when the health community speaks to society in a manner that reassures the disenfranchised of the strength of the bond w'dem. when the human dignity of pplz is assaulted, health outcomes are affected, thereby requiring health professionals to speak out on matters of social concern. when patients receive care that deviates from best evidence cause of bias or socioeconomic hurdles associated with structural racism, advocacy is required to recognize and address the problem. whether through individual action or the collective work of professional societies, disenfranchised pplz nd'2 be assured that in matters pertaining to their health, there can be confidence in sci-based guidance and advice.
we must all recognize this disease of distrust as the scourge that tis and band together to reclaim this primordial toonistic of the health profession: the preservation of the lives of all those who share our time and space. this ‘d be the last time our society has to struggle gainsta legacy of the past as we fite persistent disparities in health outcomes and tackle this pandemic na challenges to come.
original content at: sci.scimag.org…
authors: tuckson, r. v.