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American Heart Association announces plan to help end structural racism in healthcare

'I was the first Black doctor to be there'
Posted at 6:37 PM, Nov 10, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-10 18:40:51-05

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Breaking down barriers, Tuesday the American Heart Association announced a four-year plan of initiatives to help end structural racism in healthcare.

Dr. Tiffany McCalla remembers her first internship here in south Florida well.

“I was the first Black doctor to be there,” she recalled.

That was in the early 2000s and after close to 20 years of practicing, Dr. McCalla said diverse representation in the medical field matters.

“They don’t know what they don’t know and so they don’t realize that they aren’t treating people the same,” she said. “They may not be the same as you but those are things as a physician you are responsible for as well if you’re treating that patient.

“This is a monumental moment in the history of the American Heart Association,” Dr. Eduardo Sanchez, Chief Science, and Medical Prevention Officer, AHA said.

Healthcare leaders from around the country hosted a virtual panel discussion on racial inequities in healthcare, Tuesday afternoon.

“Context matters and for example, a person who has low-income job barely affordable housing and lives in a neighborhood with no nearby supermarkets may have a difficult time getting or affording healthy food and even prescription drugs,” Dr. Sanchez said.

According to AHA Black Americans experience a 30 percent higher death rate from heart disease and a 45 percent higher death rate from stroke compared to white Americans.

“We definitely intend this to be an area understanding how racism biologically at multiple levels can lead to these kinds of problems,” Dr. Mitchell S.V. Elkind, President of American Heart Association said.

AHA says they’ve spent the last 3 years researching areas to address and have identified 5 key pillars, including implementing policies, fostering allies, and supporting more research.

“It does give us the unique opportunity to broaden our scope and actually become much more inclusive in regard to developing programs and processes with our partners, and medical institutions and also medical schools,” Dr. Keith Churchwell, Writing Committee Chair, AHA said.