The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is asking pediatricians to play a greater role in the fight against racism because of its adverse effects on children’s health. The policy statement titled “Racism and Its Impact on Child and Adolescent Health” is based on hundreds of studies. This is the AAP’s first time releasing a statement explicitly focused on racism.
Research shows that racism can have a profound impact on children’s physical and mental health. Studies have connected racism to negative outcomes including low birth weight and prolonged exposure to stress hormones. In turn, these factors can create health problems such as diabetes and depression.
The AAP is asking pediatricians to create culturally sensitive practices, advocate for policies that impact social justice, and engage community leaders in discussions about the health disparities that occur as a result of racism.
By paying attention to families affected by racism and engaging others in the effects it has on children’s health, the AAP believes that pediatricians can play a key role in helping to reduce those disparities.
Conversations about race between parents and pediatricians can have a profound impact on children’s health.
Simply asking families if they have experienced racism and listening to their responses can have a huge impact on how children are treated. For example, children who are exposed to the effects of racial bias, such as those who live in neighborhoods with few healthy food stores or playgrounds, may be provided wellness counseling for things like weight gain and high blood pressure. If they have witnessed hate crimes or been direct victims of a hate crime they may need counseling and medication for anxiety or depression.
Pediatricians are also asked to fight racism beyond their practice walls.
The AAP also recommends pediatricians engage community leaders and partner with local law enforcement and first responders to share their expertise about child development. It goes even further to suggest they advocate for local and national policies that support better bias training in education to reduce suspension and drop-out rates. “As a pediatrician I know that when we help children grow up healthy and with equal access to opportunities, we improve all of society,” said AAP President Kyle Yasuda, MD, FAAP.
The APP hopes that a more holistic, thoughtful approach to pediatrics regarding race will lead to better health outcomes for children overall.