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ACP Proposes Policies and Action to Confront Systemic Racism, Discrimination and Injustices in Health and Law Enforcement

Commits to Being an Anti-Racist Organization, Says Racism Is a Public Health Issue

Philadelphia (June 19, 2020)—The American College of Physicians (ACP) believes there is an urgent need to speak out on the ongoing racism and violence that are regularly directed at Black and indigenous people in the United States, including racism and violence committed by law enforcement, and that ongoing racism continues to be an urgent public health issue requiring systemic change. In a new policy, “Racism and Health In the United States: A Policy Statement from the American College of Physicians” published today in the Annals of Internal Medicine, ACP condemns the injustices and harms experienced by Black individuals and other people of color as a result of racism and details the ways that pervasive systemic racism, discrimination, and violence throughout society have adverse individual and community health consequences. ACP reaffirms and commits to expanding on its previous policies to confront racial and ethnic disparities, discrimination and racism in health, and offers new recommendations to address racism in law enforcement and its impact on public health.

“The killing of George Floyd and others, resulting in the outcry of protests we have seen across the country in recent weeks has brought a renewed focus to the racism and discrimination that Black individuals experience every day,” said Jacqueline W. Fincher, MD, MACP, president, ACP. “Discrimination, racism, and violence by law enforcement that target Black individuals and other persons of color, harm the physical heath, mental health, and well-being of individuals and the public. It also undermines law enforcement officers who are dedicated to equal treatment under the law, ensuring public safety, and saving lives, and it erodes public confidence in justice and law enforcement.” 

The new policy is supported by an extensive review of the evidence of how racism and discrimination in health care and in law enforcement, are public health issues. The policy offers specific ideas “as a starting point” to address institutional discrimination, racism and bias in law enforcement, an issue that ACP has not previously addressed in policy papers and advocacy.  The positions offer suggested solutions to increase transparency and accountability, and to adopt best practices that encourage safer law enforcement practices and reduce violent interactions with civilians.

ACP’s recommendations include the following: 

• ACP commits to being an anti-racist organization that is committed to action and policy to confront and eliminate racism and ACP condemns the injustices and harm that Black and indigenous communities and other people of color experience as a result of pervasive overt and covert systemic institutional racist policies, practices, and discrimination in the United States.  
• ACP commits to developing new policies and expanding existing ones towards these goals.
• ACP reaffirms that hate crimes are a public health issue and that all persons must have equitable access to high-quality health care and must not be discriminated against.
• ACP affirms that physical and verbal violence and discrimination, particularly on the basis of race/ethnicity and other perceived characteristics of personal identity, are social determinants of health and, thus, public health issues.
• ACP affirms that discrimination, racism, and violence in the context of law enforcement and law enforcement policies and practices that target Black individuals and other persons of color harm the physical heath, mental health, and well-being of individuals and the public.
• ACP supports greater transparency, accountability, and adoption of best practices in law enforcement to address the sources of institutional racism and harm and ensure equal treatment under the law of all persons, without regard to race and other personal characteristics.
• ACP supports policies to promote safety and wellness at every level of law enforcement organizations including support for officer wellness and safety, and policies that reinforce the importance of community engagement in managing public safety.
• ACP condemns violations of the fundamental constitutional and human right of persons to peaceably protest against racism and violence and calls on public authorities and law enforcement to protect this right and never subject peaceful protesters to enforcement actions that can harm their health.

“We are an organization representing physicians on the front lines treating patients impacted by racism, discrimination, and violence. This includes racism, discrimination and violence from law enforcement, but also failings in our health care system and our own medical profession. ACP offers these policy recommendations to address the sources of these social determinants of health and protect the health of the public,” continued Dr. Fincher. “We also acknowledge the significance of today’s Juneteenth holiday, in recognizing that more needs to be done to combat racism and discrimination against Black people. ACP is committed to being an anti-racist organization and is committed to developing evidence-based solutions and policies to confront and eliminate racism.” 

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About the American College of Physicians

The American College of Physicians is the largest medical specialty organization in the United States with members in more than 145 countries worldwide. ACP membership includes 159,000 internal medicine physicians (internists), related subspecialists, and medical students. Internal medicine physicians are specialists who apply scientific knowledge and clinical expertise to the diagnosis, treatment, and compassionate care of adults across the spectrum from health to complex illness. Follow ACP on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.