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J Natl Med Assoc. 2017 Spring;109(1):33-35. doi: 10.1016/j.jnma.2016.11.003. Epub 2016 Dec 1.

Movement Advocacy, Personal Relationships, and Ending Health Care Disparities.

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Section of General Internal Medicine, Department of Medicine, USA; MacLean Center for Clinical Medical Ethics, University of Chicago, USA. Electronic address:


Deep-rooted structural problems drive health care disparities. Compounding the difficulty of attaining health equity, solutions in clinics and hospitals require the cooperation of clinicians, administrators, patients, and the community. Recent protests over police brutality and racism on campuses across America have opened fresh wounds over how best to end racism, with lessons for achieving health equity. Movement advocacy, the mobilizing of the people to raise awareness of an injustice and to advocate for reform, can break down ingrained structural barriers and policies that impede health equity. However, simultaneously advocates, clinicians, and health care organizations must build trusting relationships and resolve conflict with mutual respect and honesty. Tension is inherent in discussions about racial and ethnic disparities. Yet, tension can be constructive if it forces self-examination and spurs systems change and personal growth. We must simultaneously advocate for policy reform, build personal relationships across diverse groups, and honestly examine our biases.


Advocacy; Disparities; Equity; Ethnicity; Race

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