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The Impact of Racism on Children’s Health and Education Outcomes

Melissa Duclos

Aug 26, 2019

The American Academy of Pediatrics released a new policy statement this month, “The Impact of Racism on Child and Adolescent Health.” The statement explores the impact of structural, personally mediated, and internalized racism on children’s development and health outcomes. It acknowledges racism as a cause of health disparities observed between different races, such as maternal mortality rates.

According to the 16-page policy statement: “These health inequities are not the result of individual behavior choices or genetic predisposition but are caused by economic, political, and social conditions, including racism.”

Structural racism impacts where children live, where they learn and how they’re taught, and their socio-economic status, all of which in turn affect their health outcomes. In particular, the report identifies the close relationship between health and education:

“Educational achievement is an important predictor of long-term health outcomes for children. … It is critical for pediatricians to recognize the institutional, personally mediated, and internalized levels of racism that occur in the educational setting because education is a critical social determinant of health for children.”

The statement challenges pediatricians to think differently about racial disparities, considering the social conditions, including racism that cause such disparities. Addressing the impact of racism on the health and well-being of children is necessary in order for our health system to meet the needs of all patients. 

The statement closes with a set of recommendations to pediatricians to better serve children of color by improving clinical care and workforce development, engaging in systems and policy change, and impacting research. According to Elena Rivera, our senior health policy and program advisor, these recommendations resonate with Children’s Institute’s approach to developing our Health and Learning Initiative with a health equity lens.

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