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Editor's Comment
Health Equity
June 17, 2020

In Pursuit of a Deeper Understanding of Racial Justice and Health Equity

Author Affiliations
  • 1Editor in Chief, JAMA Health Forum
  • 2Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
  • 3Deputy Editor, JAMA Health Forum
  • 4Department of Health Policy, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Nashville, Tennessee
JAMA Health Forum. 2020;1(6):e200765. doi:10.1001/jamahealthforum.2020.0765

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

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:

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.

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Article Information

Open Access: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the CC-BY License.

Yancy  CW.  COVID-19 and African Americans.   JAMA. 2020;323(19):1891-1892. doi:10.1001/jama.2020.6548PubMedGoogle ScholarCrossref
Ayanian  JZ, Landon  BE, Newhouse  JP, Zaslavsky  AM.  Racial and ethnic disparities among enrollees in Medicare Advantage plans.   N Engl J Med. 2014;371(24):2288-2297. doi:10.1056/NEJMsa1407273PubMedGoogle ScholarCrossref
Essien  UR, Venkataramani  A. Data and policy solutions to address racial and ethnic disparities in the COVID-19 pandemic. JAMA Health Forum. Published April 28, 2020. Accessed June 15, 2020. https://jamanetwork.com/channels/health-forum/fullarticle/2765498
Kozhimannil  KB. Indigenous maternal health—a crisis demanding attention. JAMA Health Forum. Published May 18, 2020. Accessed June 15, 2020. https://jamanetwork.com/channels/health-forum/fullarticle/2766339
Wilson  FA, Stimpson  JP. Federal and state policies affecting immigrant access to health care. JAMA Health Forum. Published April 6, 2020. Accessed June 15, 2020. https://jamanetwork.com/channels/health-forum/fullarticle/2764349
Rummo  PE, Bragg  MA, Yi  SS. Supporting equitable food access during national emergencies—the promise of online grocery shopping and food delivery services. JAMA Health Forum. Published March 27, 2020. Accessed June 15, 2020. https://jamanetwork.com/channels/health-forum/fullarticle/2763856
Pollack  HA, Bagenstos  SR. The hidden disability consensus in the 2020 campaign. JAMA Health Forum. Published February 7, 2020. Accessed June 15, 2020. https://jamanetwork.com/channels/health-forum/fullarticle/2760999
Sood  N, Wagner  Z. India’s historic effort to expand health insurance to individuals living below the poverty line. JAMA Health Forum. Published March 20, 2020. Accessed June 15, 2020. https://jamanetwork.com/channels/health-forum/fullarticle/2763530
Ku  L, Brantley  E. Widening social and health inequalities during the COVID-19 pandemic. JAMA Health Forum. Published June 10, 2020. Accessed June 15, 2020. https://jamanetwork.com/channels/health-forum/fullarticle/2767253
Heisler  M, Mishori  R, Haar  R. Protests against police violence met by more police violence—a dangerous paradox. JAMA Health Forum. Published June 11, 2020. Accessed June 15, 2020. https://jamanetwork.com/channels/health-forum/fullarticle/2767270
Gray  DM II, Joseph  JJ, Olayiwola  JN. Strategies for digital care of vulnerable patients in a COVID-19 world—keeping in touch. JAMA Health Forum. Published June 12, 2020. Accessed June 15, 2020. https://jamanetwork.com/channels/health-forum/fullarticle/2767347
Mullangi  S, Knudsen  J, Chokshi  DA. Shoring up the US safety net in the era of coronavirus disease 2019. JAMA Health Forum. Published June 15, 2020. Accessed June 15, 2020. https://jamanetwork.com/channels/health-forum/fullarticle/2767380
Martin  E, Sorensen  LC. Protecting the health of vulnerable children and adolescents during COVID-19–related K-12 school closures in the US. JAMA Health Forum. Published June 16, 2020. Accessed June 16, 2020. https://jamanetwork.com/channels/health-forum/fullarticle/2767411
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