In the previous articles on Race & Health we broke down the racism of medical history and the the impact racism in our society has on health – even now. Reading and understanding such articles is the first step towards ending racism. This is through educating ourselves and expressing cultural humility. Cultural humility is the ongoing self-reflection into how our unconscious biases impact society around us. Additionally, the next step is to understand the difference between intent and impact – a concept that requires us to focus on behavioural change that takes into account the impact on the recipient rather than just the intent of the actor .
Using this information, and by actively educating ourselves, we can continue to challenge conscious or unconscious biases we may have. This will further allow us to recognise racially motivated patterns in society, which should hopefully open the pathway to advocacy. Advocacy, alongside education, is the core to creating change. Acting based on our knowledge, whether it be in calling out a racist remark or working with others to develop educational material makes a difference. Even going as far as to protest peacefully and lobby for systemic change will help improve current issues. Figure 1, below, shows a range of ways in which we can control biases at an individual and organisational level.
Figure 1. Strategies to Mitigate Unconscious Bias. Figure by J R Marcelin et al (2019) .
Furthermore, when working in a healthcare setting (or similar) there are several key strategies that can and should be implemented to reduce racism and racial biases. These include :
- Education on stigma, how it manifests in the workplace and its impacts. This can be interactive to allow for better inclusion
- Skill-development to allow healthcare workers to work safely and appropriately with the Black, Asian and other Minority Ethnic communities.
- Involving stigmatised groups to provide such training and educational tools. This will allow for optimal understanding of their experiences and break down previously held stereotypes.
- Empowering patients to overcome stigma without repercussions. This can be done by making the complaints and feedback process more user-friendly and accessible.
- Policy implementation that restructures the system to be more welcoming to stigmatised groups.
Fantastic resources that support self-education and advocacy efforts have become more readily available as a product of the BLM protests. One organisation you can work with or learn from is Race & Health, whose goal is to reduce the adverse effects of discrimination that leads to poor health. Further yet, a range of books such as The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, How to argue with a racist: History, Science, race and Reality and Black man in a white coat: A Doctors reflection on Race and Medicine may come in especially useful in understanding the impacts of racism and developing your rhetoric in challenging them.
If reading isn’t your style, the Netflix documentary 13th, or the series When They See Us can also help us visualise and act on challenging the pandemic-like nature of racism. Further yet, you can easily find a range of social media accounts that focus on tackling racism on a daily basis. These will also help to keep you informed and actively engaged in this vital discussion.
- J R Marcelin et al. The Impact of Unconscious Bias in Healthcare: How to Recognize and Mitigate ItThe Impact of Unconscious Bias in Healthcare: How to Recognize and Mitigate It. The Journal of Infectious Diseases 220: Aug 20, 2019
- L Nyblade et al. Stigma in health facilities: why it matters and how we can change it. BioMed 17(25): 2019