American Academy of Pediatrics Makes 'Monumental' Move on Guidance

Pediatrics group says it's nixing 'race-based medicine' to help eliminate racial health disparities
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 2, 2022 8:19 AM CDT
Top Pediatrics Group Moves to Nix 'Race-Based Medicine'
A pediatrician examines a newborn baby in her clinic in Chicago on Aug. 13, 2019.   (AP Photo/Amr Alfiky)

For years, pediatricians have followed flawed guidelines linking race to risks for urinary infections and newborn jaundice. In a new policy announced Monday, the American Academy of Pediatrics said it's putting all its guidance under the microscope to eliminate "race-based" medicine and resulting health disparities. A reexamination of AAP treatment recommendations that began before George Floyd's 2020 death and intensified after it has doctors concerned that Black youngsters have been undertreated and overlooked, said Dr. Joseph Wright, lead author of the new policy and chief health equity officer at the University of Maryland's medical system. The influential academy has begun purging outdated advice, per the AP, and it's committing to scrutinizing its "entire catalog," including guidelines, educational materials, textbooks, and newsletter articles, Wright said.

"We are really being much more rigorous about the ways in which we assess risk for disease and health outcomes," Wright said. "We do have to hold ourselves accountable in that way. It's going to require a heavy lift." In recent years, other major doctor groups, including the American Medical Association, have made similar pledges. They are spurred in part by civil rights and social justice movements, but also by science showing the strong roles that social conditions, genetics, and other biological factors play in determining health. Last year, the academy retired a guideline calculation based on the unproven idea that Black children faced lower risks than white kids for urinary infections. A review had shown that the strongest risk factors were prior urinary infections and fevers lasting more than 48 hours, not race, Wright said.

A revision to its newborn jaundice guidance—which currently suggests certain races have higher and lower risks—is planned for this summer, Wright said. Dr. Valencia Walker, a specialist in newborn care and health equity at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, called the new policy "a critical step" toward reducing racial health disparities. The academy is urging other medical institutions and specialty groups to take a similar approach in working to eliminate racism in medicine. Dr. Brittani James, a family medicine doctor and medical director for a Chicago health center, said the academy is making a pivotal move. "What makes this so monumental is the fact that this is a medical institution and it's not just words. They're acting," James said.

(More American Academy of Pediatrics stories.)

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