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AHA Presidential Advisory on Structural Racism and Health Disparities

Last month, the American Heart Association released a Presidential Advisory, “Call to Action: Structural Racism as a Fundamental Driver of Health Disparities.” The advisory reviews the historical context, current state and potential solutions to address structural racism in the U.S., and outlines steps the Association is taking to address and mitigate the root causes of health care disparities.

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The Association is highlighting three key points from the advisory:

• Structural racism is a current and pervasive problem, influenced by history and not merely an issue of the past.
• Structural racism is real and produces adverse effects, whether it is blatant to others or perceived only or primarily by those impacted.
• The task of dismantling the impact of structural racism on economic, social and health inequities is a shared responsibility that must belong to all of society, including the American Heart Association.

The Association is focusing more aggressively on overcoming societal barriers created by structural racism because they contribute significantly to the disproportionate burden of cardiovascular risk factors in Black, Asian, American Indian/Alaska Native, and Hispanic/Latino people compared with white people in the U.S.

Despite a recent plateau, death rates for heart disease and stroke have declined over the last two decades, but these gains are not equitably shared among people who are from the Black, Asian, American Indian/Alaska Native or Hispanic/Latino communities. These communities still experience a significantly higher rate of death than non-Hispanic white Americans, and the American Heart Association is committed to changing that.

Structural racism, by definition, is not a personal action or behavior or belief, it’s not something that a few people or institutions choose to practice. Structural racism is an embedded part of legal, business and social constructs and a feature of the social, economic and political systems in which we all exist. Although structural racism has existed for centuries, the COVID-19 pandemic exposed and exacerbated the existing disparities in health disparities, as evidenced by the way the virus is disproportionately more prevalent in people from Black, Asian, American Indian/Alaska Native or Hispanic/Latino communities.
- Keith Churchwell, M.D., FAHA, chair of the Advisory writing committee and president of Yale New Haven Hospital in New Haven, Conn.

You can read the full text of this historic Presidential Advisory here and check out our news release here. As always if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out via email at [email protected]

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