Health care providers often use tests to assess a patient’s health. In many cases, health care providers calculate test results differently for Black patients than they do for everyone else and this is not good.
“Race correction” occurs when health care providers use a patient's 'race' to calculate laboratory results or use 'race-based' diagnostic charts, calculators or cut-off range to decide whether or not a Black person should receive care or decide whether or not the symptoms a Black person is reporting require treatment. 'Race-correction' is a practice routinely and almost exclusively applied to Black people by health providers in Canada, the United States of America (U.S.) and other places in the world when assessing organ health, and symptoms. The result, Black people experience preventable suffering, increased out of pocket health costs, lost days of work/income and health disparities because health providers choose to use 'race correction'.
Race correction has no scientific basis because “race” is not biological. It is a social construct that is applied differently in different times and in different places. Meaning that 'race' should not be conflated with biology. Therefore it is incorrect to use 'race' in diagnosis, health care and medical research. When 'Black' = 'race' (ethnicity or ancestry) = biology, anti-Black racism is occurring and the results to date have been irreparable harm to Black people.
In fact, scientists have shown us that people have more in common genetically across "racial" groups than within them. Having melanin does not make a Black person, a different 'race' of human being. Investigating the social construct of 'race', means investigating anti-Black racism, and the affects or impact on Black communities and Black peoples. If 'race' is being inferred or identified as a variable, or cause in a biological context such as medical care and biomedical research, be wary. Typically outdated biased science, poor peer review and a lack of up-to-date medical or research training are the culprit.
Why it must end now.
Race corrections are based on the old, discredited and racist idea that Black people are inherently biologically different from white people. For example, health care providers calculate kidney function tests differently for Black patients than they do for everyone else. This “race correction” makes Black patients seem healthier than they are. That means that a Black patient can have serious kidney problems, but, after the race correction is applied, their test will come back as “normal.” Overall, race correction means that Black people are diagnosed late, or never diagnosed at all, for serious conditions such as heart, kidney or lung diseases. It also means that Black people can be excluded from timely access to life-saving treatments like organ transplants and other surgeries.
How are we ending it?
The Canada-US Coalition to End Race Correction in Health Care is a bi-national initiative to eliminate preventable health inequities that systematically target Black people, leading to clinical practices that produce unnecessary suffering, lower quality of life and increase premature death.
To do this, we:
- Advocate across health systems and jurisdictions for a systematic approach to ending race correction in Canada and the United States.
- Work directly with health care providers, organizations and decision-makers who are committed to ending race correction.
- Provide accurate information to Black patients and Black communities.