TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — Doctors across the country used guidelines to diagnose patients that are linked to race. Now, the American Academy of Pediatrics, or AAP, released a report detailing their work to dismantle the use of race-based medicine.
Tucson Medical Center Pediatrician Sean Elliot said it's a flawed method of diagnosing patients, but it's particularly common when looking at newborn jaundice and urinary infections.
"Just because someone has black versus brown versus red skin doesn’t mean they are at a higher risk for jaundice or urinary tract infections,” he said. "And what the understanding is now is that it's a very superficial, inappropriate way to distill recommendations and research."
He said many doctors and medical professionals don't realize that they even use the guidance.
"I don’t think people even realize they are using race based medicine and so we teach based on historical evidence," he said.
AAP's Dr. Tiffani Johnson, who co-wrote the report, said it's not just doctors that use race-based medicine. There are calculations based on race that are automatically used by medical professionals across the field.
"When you order a GFR independent of what the providers does the lab re-calculates it and calibrates it based on race and that’s an example that we don’t even think about," she said.
She said this causes many children to get under-treated and misdiagnosed.
"And we know that black male children have actually worse outcomes when it comes to jaundice so as we are thinking about the way we re-evaluate our guidelines," she said. "We also want to do some deeper dives into if race is in there, what is race really a signal of and how can we eliminate the practice of race based medicine."
She said it's about treating the person, not based on the color of their skin, which starts with unlearning the guidelines that were so ingrained in society.
"Making sure that race falsely inserted in our guidelines as a biological variable in our guidelines is the first step," she said.
She said the AAP is already trying to work on changing the language in textbooks to stop teaching race based medicine.
Tina Giuliano is a reporter for KGUN 9. She is a native Arizonan and grew up in Scottsdale. Tina is passionate about storytelling and is excited to work telling Tucson's stories. Share your story ideas and important issues with Tina by emailing email@example.com or by connecting on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.