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Physicians for Human Rights

Joint Intervention with Professor Vernellia Randall of the University of Dayton School of Law and the Institute on Race, Healthcare and the Law

Submitted to the World Conference Against Racism, Regional Preparatory Meeting for the Americas, December 4-7, 2000

Theme 5: Strategies for achieving total and effective equality, including international cooperation in the fight against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and other forms of intolerance

Thank you Mr. Chairman.  Good Afternoon everyone, my name is Lorraine Anderson and I represent Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) This is a joint intervention between PHR and Professor Vernellia Randall of the University of Dayton Law School in Ohio USA and the Institute on Race, Healthcare and the Law.

Health is an essential precursor to the enjoyment of all other human rights and should be available and accessible on an equal basis for all. Members of racial and ethnic minorities in every society are equally entitled to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health.

In the Americas, racial and ethnic minorities, especially Indigenous peoples and Afro-descendents, have poorer health status than the majority populations in their societies. This disparity is due to barriers these groups face in accessing healthcare systems such as lack of resources to pay for care that is not provided by the states, and the absence of appropriate services in their communities. Those fortunate enough to access health care are essentially relegated to inferior care as a result of race bias in the diagnosis and treatment they receive. Health status affects the range of decisions and possibilities open to individuals. For indigenous peoples, Afro descendents and other racial and ethnic minorities in the Americas, good health is crucial, as it is at times the only fungible asset to which these disenfranchised groups may lay claim.

Policies that have the purpose or effect of producing unequal access to health care systems, or producing racial and ethnic biases in the diagnosis and treatment of racial minorities, are policies of racial discrimination. They are an affront to human dignity and a disavowal of the principles, fundamental freedoms and human rights set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international documents.

We therefore request that this conference acknowledge that racism is a major health determinant for Indigenous peoples, people of African decent and other racially marginalized groups which has an especially profound effect on women in these groups. It is there for important for the health status of these groups to be documented and understood so that racial discrimination in health care can be eradicated. We request that member states take effective action to remedy this health crisis including:

  1. routinely and systematically collecting race and gender data on health status and health care; such data should not be limited to census and vital statistics but include data on access and quality ( particularly services delivery, diagnosis and treatment, facility availability, provider availability and other related health activities and services);
  2. ensure that health care providers are trained to provide culturally appropriate care and that members of afro-descent communities, indigenous communities and other racial groups are adequately represented as health care providers and;
  3. provide effective mechanisms for the monitoring and elimination of health care racism; such efforts should include effective anti-racism laws which provide an adequate institutional framework for redress.
  4. urge the member states of the Inter-American system to formulate, approve and ratify additional protocols within the American Convention on Human Rights (the San Jose Pact) that will incorporate rights and protections for racially discriminated groups.

If discrimination in health care is left unchecked, racial and ethnic minorities, especially Indigenous people and Afro descendents, will never be able to fully enjoy the inalienable rights they share with all other members of the human family. Unless concrete steps are immediately taken to put an end to this health crisis, we are banishing yet another generation of racial and ethnic minorities to a life in which they will not be able to realize their full potential

Related Pages:
Home ] Up ] WCAR Health Caucus Proposed Declaration ] Institutional Racism in the US Health Care System ] [ Joint Statement to America Prepcom ] Health and HIV/AIDS Thematic Commission ] NGO Health Caucus Declaration ] WCAR Health Related Passages ]
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Contact Information:
Professor Vernellia R. Randall
Institute on Race, Health Care and the Law
The University of Dayton School of Law
300 College Park 
Dayton, OH 45469-2772
Email: randall@udayton.edu


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