June 2, 2020
As adolescent health clinicians and researchers, SAHM members understand that racism is a core social determinant of health that has far-reaching effects on health and well-being. All levels of racism – institutionalized, personally mediated, and internalized – drive disparities in health outcomes. Experiences of discrimination lead to internalized negative stereotypes that preclude the development of a positive identity and may lead to depression, anxiety and suicide.
As noted in recent position papers by SAHM and the American Academy of Pediatrics, racism is a pervasive reality in the U.S. and globally and has profound and destructive effects on adolescent health and well-being. Racism comprises prejudice, stereotypes, and discrimination, and drives unequal distribution of privilege, resources, and power in favor of the dominant racial group and at the expense of all others.
As health professionals and researchers, we recommit every day to work that aligns with the moral and ethical principles of justice, inclusiveness, equity, and respect for all individuals, and must work tirelessly to dismantle systemic racism. We must train providers to respond to youth experiences of racism. We must conduct research to develop interventions to prevent racism’s negative effects in clinical, school, and juvenile justice settings, and implement these interventions widely. We cannot achieve our goal of improving adolescent health and well-being without addressing racism and its fundamental role in driving health disparities.
We must harness our outrage: combined with our compassion, it is the key to achieving racial justice and reducing the health and social inequities that injustice breeds.
The Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine (SAHM), founded in 1968, is a non-profit multidisciplinary professional society of 1,200 members committed to the promotion of health, well-being, and equity for all adolescents and young adults by supporting adolescent health and medicine professionals through the advancement of clinical practice, care delivery, research, advocacy, and professional development. Through education, research, clinical services and advocacy activities, SAHM enhances public and professional awareness of adolescent health issues among families, educators, policy makers, youth-serving organizations, students in the field as well as other health professionals around the world.