Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will.Martin Luther King, Jr, Letter from Birmingham City Jail, April 16, 1963
Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will.
The killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer on May 25 has shocked and rocked the nation, but the institutional racism that permeates US society has been hiding in plain sight throughout our country’s history. This racism deeply affects the lives of black Americans and has been too long overlooked, unacknowledged, or misunderstood by white Americans who have benefited from better experiences of education, employment, housing, law enforcement, and health care.
The acute national outrage over the recent killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor has erupted in the context of disturbing racial and ethnic disparities in mortality from coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Black Americans in many states are dying at disproportionately high rates.1 These racial disparities in COVID-19 mortality, in turn, arise from longstanding disparities in the burden of chronic conditions, such as hypertension, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease, that have predisposed black Americans to worse outcomes from COVID-19.2 Unequal access to care is often a substantial contributing factor.
What role can JAMA Health Forum play in confronting and overcoming health disparities arising from institutional racism? Journals exist to share knowledge by disseminating peer-reviewed evidence and well-informed commentaries. At their best, they stimulate deeper understanding and action to address important health problems. Since JAMA Health Forum launched 5 months ago, we have published Insights that address a range of health disparities in the United States and elsewhere. Representing about one-fifth of all Insights published to date, these commentaries include:
Data and Policy Solutions to Address Racial and Ethnic Disparities in the COVID-19 Pandemic3
Indigenous Maternal Health—A Crisis Demanding Attention4
Federal and State Policies Affecting Immigrant Access to Health Care5
Supporting Equitable Food Access During National Emergencies—The Promise of Online Grocery Shopping and Food Delivery Services6
The Hidden Disability Consensus in the 2020 Campaign7
India’s Historic Effort to Expand Health Insurance to Individuals Living Below the Poverty Line8
Widening Social and Health Inequalities During the COVID-19 Pandemic9
Protests Against Police Violence Met by More Police Violence—A Dangerous Paradox10
Strategies for Digital Care of Vulnerable Patients in a COVID-19 World—Keeping in Touch11
Shoring Up the US Safety Net in the COVID-19 Era12
Protecting the Health of Vulnerable Children and Adolescents During COVID-19–Related K-12 School Closures in the US13
Going forward, we encourage authors to submit Insights on constructive changes in policies and practice that could reduce and ultimately eliminate racial disparities in health. We welcome authors from diverse and underrepresented backgrounds to submit their commentaries on this topic and other important ones of their choosing. We also commit to seeking Insights from authors of diverse backgrounds and on topics related to the adverse health consequences of racism, disparities in the social determinants of health and health care that compound the effects of racism, and policy responses to reverse these effects.
As Dr King emphasized in his letter from the Birmingham City Jail, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly.” Through insightful writing, reflective reading, and purposeful action, the authors and readers of JAMA Health Forum can strive to advance racial justice and health equity.
Open Access: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the CC-BY License.
Identify all potential conflicts of interest that might be relevant to your comment.
Conflicts of interest comprise financial interests, activities, and relationships within the past 3 years including but not limited to employment, affiliation, grants or funding, consultancies, honoraria or payment, speaker's bureaus, stock ownership or options, expert testimony, royalties, donation of medical equipment, or patents planned, pending, or issued.
Err on the side of full disclosure.
If you have no conflicts of interest, check "No potential conflicts of interest" in the box below. The information will be posted with your response.
Not all submitted comments are published. Please see our commenting policy for details.
Ayanian JZ, Buntin MB. In Pursuit of a Deeper Understanding of Racial Justice and Health Equity. JAMA Health Forum. 2020;1(6):e200765. doi:10.1001/jamahealthforum.2020.0765