The Health Equity Week of Action (HEWA) is an annual week-long event that focuses on raising awareness about the health disparities that exist across racial, ethnic, cultural, and social groups. HEWA utilizes a variety of interactive and innovative events to inform and inspire the actions needed to eradicate such health inequities.
The HEWA Organizing Committee is promoting the following definition of health equity to emphasize the justice we are striving to achieve:
“The resolution of systematic disparities in health between social groups who have different levels of underlying social advantage and disadvantage positions in a social hierarchy.” (P. Braveman & S. Gruskin, 2003)
2021 Health Equity Week of Action Schedule:
Monday, February 8 | Immigrant and Refugee Health
Healthcare Access in Immigrant Detention, Southern Poverty Law Center: 5pm ET
Tuesday, February 9 | Reproductive Justice
Reproductive Justice as a Framework for Self-Interrogation, Dr. Jeff Koetje: 12pm ET
Wednesday, February 10 | Black Trans Bodies
Learn about this important intersectional topic through interactive social media posts and background materials
Thursday, February 11 | Institutional Racism in Medical School
The Dean’s Corner: Equity and Inclusion in a US Medical School, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine: 3pm ET
Friday, February 12 | Turning Knowledge into Action
Find our advocacy materials on social media and plan out your next steps!
The U.S. is home to more than 44 million immigrants and refugees. In recent years, immigrants and refugees in the United States have been subjected to increasingly aggressive immigration policies that violate fundamental human rights—including access to essential healthcare. Recent stories of misguided and coerced medical procedures have reflected immigrants’ bleak and commonplace experience in detention centers. The inhumane treatment that the immigrant and refugee communities have faced is alarming and requires action. We were joined by Andrea Ruiz-Sorrentini from Southern Policy Law Center, who spoke with us about the inadequate mental and medical health care that individuals receive in immigrant detention, and what we can do about it.
- Advocacy Toolkit: Hold ICE Accountable for Deplorable Medical Attention in Detention
- Read more about the current state of detention centers and more effective alternatives:
- Learn more about the Biden Administration Immigration Plan.
- Learn more about Alternatives to Detention (ATDs)
- Sign the ACLU petition reunite separated families
- Sign up to work or volunteer at a local refugee clinic. Contact your State’s refugee health coordinator.
- Read U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI) Statement on the Inauguration of President Joseph Biden
- Host a chapter dialogue
- Tackle language barriers in medical settings
- Increase access to healthcare resources
- Contact state representatives and senators to defund ICE
Day Two: Reproductive Justice
Reproductive Justice is often defined as the human right to maintain personal bodily autonomy, have children, not have children, and parent the children we have in safe and sustainable communities. Over the past few decades, increasingly restrictive policies have passed that have limited individuals’ access to essential reproductive care, particularly abortion care. Various states have limited public funding for abortion care, enacted policies that misguide and deter women from pursuing abortions, and limited access to such abortion means. Learn more about this topic by viewing the resources below!
We were joined by Dr. Jeff Koetje of our very own Reproductive Health Project to discuss this important topic. During his discussion with our REACH Advocacy Coordinator Eboni Peoples, Dr. Koetje provided his own experiences following the moral, ethical, and practical leadership of BIPOC women, femme, and trans people, who do the work of Reproductive Justice as practices of survival, solidarity, and creatively living into the not-yet.
- SisterSong Reproductive Justice Key Points
- Learn more about the statistics of abortion care in the United States
- Watch this video on Abortion Stigma
- Read more about How Lack of Access to Quality Care Is Harming Black Women
- Learn more about the intersectionality of the topic by reading about Reproductive Injustice in Detention Centers.
- Read through this toolkit on Queering Reproductive Justice
Get involved with our multitude of Reproductive Health Projects here at AMSA!
Intersectionality is an important consideration when dissecting the issues that impact minority communities; this is particularly true for the Black transgender community. The transgender community is one of the most marginalized communities in the United States, with individuals facing discrimination in all facets of society, including – and perhaps most significantly – healthcare. In the U.S., many transgender individuals struggle to find a health care provider and insurance covering the cost of their transition-related care. Threats to this community are often amplified for Black transgender individuals who face even greater violence and the stark stats of greater poverty levels, workplace discrimination, and overall profiling by others. Learn more today about this topic by reading the available resources and utilizing the offered action items.
In recent decades, transgender patients were expected to undergo extensive talk therapy in order to access medical interventions. Under this approach, also known as the “gatekeeper” model, the ultimate decision about who was or was not a candidate for treatments ranging from hormones to surgery rested with the therapist.
Did you know that:
- Only 21% of Black LGBTQ+ youth are called by their correct pronouns
- 63% of Black LGBTQ+ youth avoid using the bathroom while at school
- NBJC Gender Justice Toolkit
- 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey
- Know Your Rights Guide for Transgender People Navigating COVID-19
- Dismantling a Culture of Violence
- HRC 2019 Black and African American LGBTQ Youth Report
- Reflect on how you address others and your first assumptions
- Advocate for inclusive language and practices to be used. Respect pronouns and expressions and correct misgendering when you see it
- Contact state representatives and senators to ask state-licensing institutions within the mental health profession to require specific training hours for all mental health professionals on effectively supporting Black trans bodies
- Contact state representatives and senators to demand the Department of Justice stop torturing Black trans women with solitary confinement in local, state and federal prisons, as well as in immigration detention.
Institutional Racism In Medical Education
As we critically engage with issues of health equity as future medical professionals, we must also explore and interrogate the roles that racism and inequity play within our own medical institutions. That’s why we chose to invite a Dean of Medicine to join us to speak about institutional racism within medical education – we urge you to do the same with members of your own school’s administration.
AAFP’s EveryONE Project aims to provide family medicine physicians with the tools to take action and confront health disparities
To learn more about the role of race and racism in medicine, we suggest the following resources:
- Nieblas-Bedolla, Edwin; Christophers, Briana; Nkinsi, Naomi T.; Schumann, Paul D.; Stein, Elizabeth “Changing How Race Is Portrayed in Medical Education,” Academic Medicine: May 5, 2020
- “UW Medicine to Exclude Race from Calculation of eGFR (Measure of Kidney Function)” Department of Medicine, University of Washington
- Race Rx: Anti-Racism Efforts at Warren Alpert Medical School, Brown Alumni Magazine
- Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present by Harriet A. Washington
- How to be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi
- “Myths about Physical Racial Differences were Used to Justify Slavery – and Are Still Believed by Doctors Today” by Linda Villarosa, published in The New York Times 8/14/2019
- So You Want to Talk About Race? by Ijeoma Oluo
- Racecraft: The Soul of Inequality in American Life by Barbara J. Fields and Karen Elise Fields
- Breathing Race Into the Machine: The Surprising Career of the Spirometer from Plantation to Genetics by Lundy Braun
- Equal Treatment. Includes brief online modules on the role of race in medicine
- Hold academic institutions accountable for racial justice
- Write Letters-to-the-Editor/Opinion editorials to harbor attention and educate the public on issues relevant to this topic.
- Donate to White Coats For Black Lives. Be mindful of groups co-opting the name of WC4BL; support their work directly
Plus, check out highlights of events from past weeks of action:
Black Maternal Health – Day One
Across the country, Black mothers are subject to maternal health challenges at alarmingly high rates, and Black women overall suffer disproportionately from a lack of access to quality reproductive care. Today we will dive into the sources of these disparities, and discuss what you can do to help reduce this health gap.
Resources to learn more:
- Check out the Black Mommas Matter Alliance’s Toolkit
- Key points to know
- In the U.S., too many women are suffering from pregnancy complications that lead to serious injury and death. The U.S. currently ranks lower than all other developed countries when it comes to maternal death ratios. Some women are more at risk than others. Black women are 3 – 4 times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than White women, and women in Southern states have a higher risks of pregnancy-related death than women in most other parts of the country.
- Many of these deaths and illnesses are preventable. The U.S. could avoid about 40% of maternal deaths if all women – regardless of age, race and zip code – had access to quality health care. In addition to improving healthcare access and quality, government actors need to address the root causes of Black maternal mortality and morbidity – including socioeconomic inequalities and racial discrimination in the healthcare system and beyond.
- Read and discuss this article about black maternal mortality in your chapter
- Check out this video interview of Linda Villarosa
- Follow the call script below, and call your congressperson in support of the MOMMA’s Act
- HR 1897 – being considered by health subcommittee
- Find your rep here
- Sample phone call:
- Dear Representative [insert name],Hi, I’m a constituent and I am calling to ask Representative DelBene to cosponsor H.R. 1897, the MOMMA’s Act and support it in the House Committee on Ways and Means where the bill is waiting for a vote.The U.S. maternal mortality rate is the highest amongst our peer nations. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 700 American women die each year from pregnancy or childbirth complications. African American women are three to four times more likely to die than their white counterparts.Starting or growing your family shouldn’t mean putting your life at risk.[provide name and address if asked]Thank you for your time
Immigrant and Refugee Health – Day Two
Today we will explore the unique healthcare disparities immigrants and refugees face in the United States. The USA is home to more immigrants than any other country—about 46 million, just less than a fifth of the world’s immigrants. In recent decades, several policy and regulatory changes have worsened health-care quality and access for immigrant populations. These changes include restrictions on access to health insurance programs, rhetoric discouraging the use of social services, aggressive immigration enforcement activities, intimidation within health-care settings, decreased caps on the number of admitted refugees, and removal of protections from deportation. Perhaps the clearest example of this is in the separation of children from their parents at the U.S. Southern border this past year.
- Toolkit for Immigrant Children health
- Toolkit for Adult Immigrant and refugee health
- Toolkit for Clinicians
- Narrated Presentation on AMSA Refugee Advocacy
- Sign up to volunteer at a local community health center or free clinic that serves immigrants and refugees in your area
- Read this guide to understand the current administration’s policies that threaten immigrants and exacerbate immigrant health disparities
- Call your representative to defund ICE using this call script from the ACLU
- Hi, my name is [YOUR NAME] and my zip code is [YOUR ZIP]. I demand that you cut DHS’s budget by defunding anti-asylum programs like MPP.The Department of Homeland Security is the Trump administration’s key tool for terrorizing immigrants. DHS is responsible for abuses like family separation, inhumane child detention, and unleashing ICE and CBP to lawlessly antagonize immigrant communities throughout the country. The agency is also implementing Trump’s anti-asylum policies, flouting the law to shut out asylum seekers. DHS must be held accountable – and that means we must cut its budget.Do not bend to Trump’s abusive immigration policies. No wall. No beds. No more agents. No family jails. I won’t allow my taxpayer dollars to fund DHS’s abuse of immigrants.
Diversity Within Healthcare Professionals – Day Three
From undergraduate school to medical school, there’s a lack of diversity in both the students and physicians. We will be looking at the race disparities statistics in medical school applications and how it continues on throughout the whole health care system. We’ll explore how and why it is important to decrease the racial gaps to further improve patient health care access and experiences.
- Check out the racial correlations on applicants and their MCAT scores/GPAs
- Learn more about residency facts and statistics on race, sex, and specialty
Race, Genetics, and Health Disparities – Day Four
Today we will explore how race and genetics are discussed in the medical field. Often during the first few years of medical school, students are taught to generalize and associate. For example, if you hear “black” in a question, you’re told to select “sickle-cell.” The problem with that association is that it could lead to misdiagnosis and missed diagnoses. Because sickle-cell protects against malaria, it may also be seen in other populations such as in Greece. Today’s focus is exploring the impact science has had on replacing ideas of race as biological.
- “Genes don’t cause Racial-health disparities. Society does”
- “Nonwhite patients get less pain relief in U.S. emergency rooms”
- Complete and discuss this activity
- Learn more about why we need to rely more on genetics and less on skin color and race by watching these TED talks
- Discuss the following questions in your AMSA chapter about genetic testing:
- Could genetic testing help reduce or increase disparities?
- Why is there a fear of discrimination by insurance companies, employers, and society as a result of genetic testing?
- What are the altrications of each form of genetic testing: diagnostic, carrier, and predictive testing?
- How can genetic testing benefit your life as well as your children’s life?
Cultural Competency in Health – Day Five
As we have discussed throughout this week, health disparities are prevalent across our healthcare system. As the U.S. population becomes increasingly diverse, they are likely to increase if not adequately addressed. One way to address these disparities is through cultural competency. Cultural competency can increase patient engagement, utilization of preventive services, treatment adherence rates and overall health status. As the population becomes more diverse, it is a social justice imperative that health care providers, employers, and health plans recognize the need to deliver culturally competent care and services to improve health outcomes, lower the total cost of care, and improve patient satisfaction.
Cultural competence is the ability to interact effectively with people of various racial, ethnic, socioeconomic, religious and social groups. Working towards cultural competence is an ongoing process, one often tackled by learning about the patterns of behavior, beliefs, language, values, and customs of particular groups.
Cultural humility involves an ongoing process of self-exploration and self-critique combined with a willingness to learn from others. It means entering a relationship with another person with the intention of honoring their beliefs, customs, and values. It means acknowledging differences and accepting that person for who they are.
- Tune into our webinar with Dr. Meleo-Erwin on 1/31 at 2 pm EST
- Health Beliefs, Practices, and Experiences in Socio-political and Cultural Contexts: Considerations for medical practitioners
- Zoe Meleo-Erwin is an Assistant Professor of Public Health at William Paterson University. She received her doctorate in sociology from the Graduate Center of the City University of New York in 2013 and holds master’s degrees in social ecology from Goddard College, and disability studies from the City University of New York School of Professional Studies. Her primary research projects explore how individuals make the decision to have weight loss surgery, pre- and post-surgical experiences of embodiment, and the post-operative relationship between weight loss surgery patients and their home surgical clinics. Her research interests include health disparities, structural determinants of health, weight-based stigma, food-based health movements, and decision making around vaccination. Learn more about her at www.zoemeleoerwin.com
- Watch this TED talk on the role of culture in healing
- Check out this report on how to improve cultural competence in your healthcare organization
Race and Genetics – January 21, 2019
Today, we explore how race and genetics are taught in medical school. Often during the first few years of medical school, students are taught to generalize and associate. For example, if you hear “Black” in a question, you’re told to select “sickle-cell”. The problem with that association is that it could lead to misdiagnosis and missed diagnoses. Because sickle-cell protects against Malaria, it may also be seen in Greek populations and others. Today’s focus is exploring the impact science has had on replacing ideas of race as biological.
– Host this activity with your chapter at a luncheon or chapter meeting
– Learn more about why we need to rely more heavily on genetics and less on skin color and race by watching these TED talks: The Biology of Race in the Absence of Biological Races, and What’s Race Got to Do with Medicine?
– Ask a doctor about their thoughts on viewing race as a risk factor and if it helps or hurts us in caring for diverse populations
Race During Medical School – January 22, 2019
If you’ve ever experienced any race-related issues during your undergraduate education, you might be surprised to know they often continue into medical school. Today, we explore how a student’s race might come into play in everything from professors treating a medical student differently in a lecture hall to race issues within the hospitals. Why are professors in today’s education system still hold these biases? What biases might we hold, and what can we do about them?
– Premeds! Check out this interesting Op-ed: How To Tell If Your Program’s Diversity Is a Hologram
– Learn about a physician’s perspective on White Privilege in a White Coat or another physician’s What It’s Like to Be a Black Man in Medical School
– Reflect on your personal encounters with disparities (i.e. being of a minority population and pursuing medicine), or stories that you’ve heard from friends, family, acquaintances
What is Whiteness? – January 23, 2019
Today we seek to provide evidence that race is a social construct. Too often, people don’t give a second thought when asked to self-identify, however, we should stop and consider how these lines are made up artificially. Why are they made up? Who stands to benefit from these classifications?
– Learn about How the Jews Became White Folks.
– Understand exactly Who Invented White People.
– Reflect on the first article provided for today. How fair is it to say that Jews became successful due to their own abilities and efforts? To what degree did government programs play a part in this upward mobility?
– Learn about your own biases by taking this quick assessment: – Take “Race” and “Arab-Muslim” implicit bias tests here: Implicit Association Tests. Do you believe these tests? How will knowing these biases change the way we approach patient care, if at all?
Physician Diversity – January 24, 2019
Did you know that even though 39% of full-time faculty are female; female faculty from some racial minority groups continue to be underrepresented in academic medicine? Only 4% of full-time faculty identify as Black or African American, Latino or Hispanic, Native American or Alaska Native, or Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander females.1(AAMC) As time has passed, there has been a rise of physicians from underrepresented minority groups which ultimately contributes to a decreasing health disparities gap; however there remains a large need for more minority physicians and minority physician leaders.
– Learn about Current Trends in Medical Education1, as it relates to physician diversity and demographics
– Interview a doctor on this topic
– Volunteer at an underserved community health clinic
Call For Action – January 25, 2019
With our overall goal of decreasing health disparities and increase the number of physicians of color, today we focus community outreach. We would like to make high school students and undergraduate students aware that there are diversity offices in medical schools.
– If you are a medical student, contact your medical school’s diversity office and request pamphlets/scholarship information. Disseminate this information to nearby colleges and high schools in impoverished areas. You could talk to the career advice office of high schools and ask them to host you to answer questions for interested students.
– If you are a college student, contact a nearby medical school’s diversity office and request pamphlets/scholarship information. Disseminate this information to your classmates through your local AMSA chapter. Go into the community and deliver this information to high schools.
– Take a moment and reflect on information from this week. What will you do differently from now on, if anything?
Mental Health – April 16, 2018
One in five adults in the U.S. suffer from a mental health condition within a given year. We want to raise awareness of these disorders, destigmatize them, and empower people with resources and knowledge. Mental health is as serious and real as physical disorders; it is time for our us to treat them as such.
– Look at these fun mindfulness activities for Children and Teens
– Facilitate a 1-2 hour group activity with this Mental Health Awareness Activity
– Check out this free mental health resource library, packed with anxiety reducing worksheets, planners, gratitude exercises and more.
Social Determinants of Health – April 17, 2018
“It is impossible to understand people’s behavior…without the concept of social stratification, because class position has a pervasive influence on almost everything…the clothes we wear…the television shows we watch…the colors we paint our homes and the names we give our pets…Our position in the social hierarchy affects our health, happiness, and even how long we will live.” – William Thompson, Sociologist (Society in Focus: An Introduction to Sociology)
– Check out this TED Talk: Social Determinants of Health by Claire Pomeroy
– Look up the nearest grocery store, how long would this trip take if you didn’t have a car? Are there any food deserts in your city?
– Reflect on your personal encounters with disparities (i.e. being of a minority population and pursuing medicine), or stories that you’ve heard from friends, family, acquaintances.
Age-Related Topics – April 18, 2018
Today we consider how social factors affect the life expectancy of different races. We also explore the leading causes of death.
– Check out this TED Talk: How Racism Makes Us Sick by David R. Williams
– Read an article on Mortality in the United States
– Reflect on the article and TED Talk provided for today. Identify the race that has the lowest life expectancy and the race with the highest life expectancy. Why do you believe these statistics match these rates?
Race in Medicine – April 19, 2018
Today we explore how topics of race are present in and affect medical training and decision making. “Race isn’t a good category to use… leads researchers down the wrong path and leads to harmful results for patients. For example, black patients who have the symptoms of cystic fibrosis aren’t diagnosed because doctors see it as a white disease.” – Dorothy Roberts, Sociologist and a professor at University of Pennsylvania Africana Studies department.
– Interview a doctor on this topic
– Read an article on Racial Profiling in the Management of Chronic Illness
– Take “weight” and “race” implicit bias tests here: Implicit Association Tests. Do you believe these tests? How will knowing these biases change the way approach patient care, if at all?
– If a stereotype applies to your background, how does it make you feel? How is this feeling different from that elicited by a stereotype that does not apply to you?
Health Care of Inmates/Incarceration – April 20, 2018
In a landmark 1986 case, Estelle v. Gamble, the Supreme Court held that not providing adequate medical care to prisoners was a violation of the Constitution’s Eighth Amendment against cruel and unusual punishment. Learn more about healthcare of inmates.
– Check out this TED Talk: Mental Health and Criminal Justice by Crystal Dieleman
– Read an article on Incarceration, the War on Drugs, and Public Health
– What are your reflections from this week and what will you do differently from now on, if anything?
Day One: What is Race? Live Webinar ft. Dr. Sharon Washington View recording here
Most of us hear about race as a social construct and not a biological one, but rarely do we learn who created this idea. Why? Who does this divisive and unscientific construct benefit and why? How did the idea of race perpetuate after those people were gone? On day one, we will explore these questions in our attempt to create a shared understanding of the meaning and origins of race as a social, historical, and political construct.
Day Two: The Existence of Disparities Webinar ft. Dr. Theresa Duello View recording here
History has produced health disparities that disproportionately impact communities of color. This discussion will provide an overview of the social and biological determinants of health disparities as well as the interplay between them.
Day Three: Race & Racism in Medicine Webinar ft. Dr. Jennifer Edgoose and Dr. Parvathy Pillai View recording here!
Explore how issues of race, racism, privilege and notions of (white) supremacy are evident in medicine and medical training as well as the physician’s implicit and explicit attitudes about race.
Day Four: Talking Race, Ethnicity, and Culture
Today we will think about how to participate in tricky and intimidating conversations around race, ethnicity, and culture as well as how to ACTIVELY raise awareness about these topics.
Day Five: Call for Action Webinar ft. Luis Perez with Baylor COM View recording here
Together we will explore action items toward moving our respective schools toward a collective vision of the institution as an anti-racist and ethnically and culturally-sensitive medical school and hospital.
“Lessons from History: A Look at the Tuskegee Syphilis Study”
podcast episode from the John Cowley Division of Medical Ethics and Humanities by SUNY Downstate
Race and Language in Healthcare:The Impact on Quality of Care
Aswita Tan‐McGrory, MBA, MSPH