Health Equity Week of Action (HEWA)

03/9/2022 - 03/13/2022

2022 Health Equity Week of Action

Reproductive Justice is often defined as the human right to maintain personal bodily autonomy, have children, not have children, and parent the children we have in safe and sustainable communities. Over the past few decades, increasingly restrictive policies have passed that have limited individuals’ access to essential reproductive care, particularly abortion care. Various states have limited public funding for abortion care, enacted policies that misguide and deter women from pursuing abortions, and limited access to such abortion means. Learn more about this topic by viewing the resources below and join us for a conversation with our invited speaker. 

HEWA 2022 Reproductive Justice Toolkit 

Resources to learn more: 

Action items: 

Across medical institutions and programs, there is a significant underrepresentation of BIPOC and other minorities. Many factors contribute to this reality, including the substantial cost of a medical career, including high preparatory and exam fees, medical school tuition, access to preparatory tools, and bias in the selection process. The lack of diversity in medical environments exacerbates biases in the delivery of care and perpetuates distrust in medical systems. To equitably serve patients from different backgrounds, address the disparities in healthcare, and dismantle racism in medicine it is essential that the medical workforce reflects the diverse community it services. As future physicians, we have a unique responsibility to use our voice to advocate for increased representation in medical programs and institutions. Learn more about this topic and how you can take action by reviewing the information below.

Diversity and Equity in Medicine Toolkit

Resources to learn more:

Action Items:

Immigrant and Refugee Health

  • The U.S. is home to more than 44 million immigrants and refugees. In recent years, immigrants and refugees in the United States have been subjected to increasingly aggressive immigration policies that violate fundamental human rights—including access to essential healthcare. Recent stories of misguided and coerced medical procedures have reflected immigrants’ bleak and commonplace experiences in detention centers. The inhumane treatment that the immigrant and refugee communities have faced is alarming and requires action. Tune in today to learn more about some of the most significant issues that this community is facing and how you can use your voice to advocate for them.
  • Refugees are people who are forced out of their country due to war or persecution for political, ethnic, or religious reasons.


Action Items:

Whether it is access to water, food, energy, or overall quality of life, there is an imbalance around the world. Environmental factors can lead to health disparities and give unequal access to various populations. As future physicians, it’s essential to understand how environmental factors impact patients. Environmental justice acknowledges that underserved, impoverished, and minority communities are disproportionately exposed to greater pollution levels and harmful environmental conditions, which confer worse health outcomes. Native communities tend to be some of the most disadvantaged and disproportionately impacted by environmental injustice. Use the resources below to learn more about this critical topic and how you can advocate for environmental justice.

Environmental Justice Toolkit

Key Points to Know

  • Native land today, as we know it, covers around 55 million acres of land across the United States. These lands contain natural gas and oil reserves, coal, various minerals, and much more. Tribes have faced difficulty in authority and management in some of their resources given non-tribal government involvement. Geopolitical lines are blurred, and those who suffer are the tribal lands.
  • For years the federal government and non-tribal individuals have Communities such as the Swinomish Tribe and Coast Salish tribes have been working together to make tools to help create a tool that looks at different indicators that can potentially impact native community health from natural resource contamination. The environmental protection agency was the first federal group to take on an official Indian policy where tribes were the primary parties for setting standards for making environmental policy decisions.

Action Items:


Microaggression is defined as a discriminatory offense towards an individual based off of their race, gender, or any marginalization. The term was coined by an African American Psychiatrist in 1970 to help encourage dialogue in regards to any harms that nondominant groups in medicine face.

Resources to learn more

Key Points to Know

  • Microaggressions can be categorized into three separate groups; microinsults, micro assaults, and microinvalidations. Higher levels of racial microaggressions have been shown to correlate with higher levels of depression, anxiety, and stress.
  • On average four out of ten women leave their medical profession around six years after training. Those from minority groups are more likely to receive optimal medical care, and such conversations are delicate to discuss.

Action Items

Plus, check out highlights of events from past weeks of action:

Day One: Black Maternal Health

Across the country, Black mothers are subject to maternal health challenges at alarmingly high rates, and Black women overall suffer disproportionately from a lack of access to quality reproductive care. Today we will dive into the sources of these disparities, and discuss what you can do to help reduce this health gap.


Resources to learn more: 

  • Check out the Black Mommas Matter Alliance’s Toolkit
  • Key points to know
    • In the U.S., too many women are suffering from pregnancy complications that lead to serious injury and death. The U.S. currently ranks lower than all other developed countries when it comes to maternal death ratios. Some women are more at risk than others. Black women are 3 – 4 times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than White women, and women in Southern states have a higher risks of pregnancy-related death than women in most other parts of the country.
    • Many of these deaths and illnesses are preventable. The U.S. could avoid about 40% of maternal deaths if all women – regardless of age, race and zip code – had access to quality health care. In addition to improving healthcare access and quality, government actors need to address the root causes of Black maternal mortality and morbidity – including socioeconomic inequalities and racial discrimination in the healthcare system and beyond.

Action Items: 

  • Read and discuss this article about black maternal mortality in your chapter
  • Check out this video interview of Linda Villarosa
  • Follow the call script below, and call your congressperson in support of the MOMMA’s Act
    • HR 1897 – being considered by health subcommittee
    • Find your rep here
    • Sample phone call:
      • Dear Representative [insert name],Hi, I’m a constituent and I am calling to ask Representative DelBene to cosponsor H.R. 1897, the MOMMA’s Act and support it in the House Committee on Ways and Means where the bill is waiting for a vote.The U.S. maternal mortality rate is the highest amongst our peer nations. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 700 American women die each year from pregnancy or childbirth complications. African American women are three to four times more likely to die than their white counterparts.Starting or growing your family shouldn’t mean putting your life at risk.[provide name and address if asked]Thank you for your time

Day Two: Immigrant and Refugee Health

Today we will explore the unique healthcare disparities immigrants and refugees face in the United States. The USA is home to more immigrants than any other country—about 46 million, just less than a fifth of the world’s immigrants. In recent decades, several policy and regulatory changes have worsened health-care quality and access for immigrant populations. These changes include restrictions on access to health insurance programs, rhetoric discouraging the use of social services, aggressive immigration enforcement activities, intimidation within health-care settings, decreased caps on the number of admitted refugees, and removal of protections from deportation. Perhaps the clearest example of this is in the separation of children from their parents at the U.S. Southern border this past year.


Action Items:

  • Sign up to volunteer at a local community health center or free clinic that serves immigrants and refugees in your area
  • Read this guide to understand the current administration’s policies that threaten immigrants and exacerbate immigrant health disparities
  • Call your representative to defund ICE using this call script from the ACLU
    • Hi, my name is [YOUR NAME] and my zip code is [YOUR ZIP]. I demand that you cut DHS’s budget by defunding anti-asylum programs like MPP.The Department of Homeland Security is the Trump administration’s key tool for terrorizing immigrants. DHS is responsible for abuses like family separation, inhumane child detention, and unleashing ICE and CBP to lawlessly antagonize immigrant communities throughout the country. The agency is also implementing Trump’s anti-asylum policies, flouting the law to shut out asylum seekers. DHS must be held accountable – and that means we must cut its budget.Do not bend to Trump’s abusive immigration policies. No wall. No beds. No more agents. No family jails. I won’t allow my taxpayer dollars to fund DHS’s abuse of immigrants.

Day Three: Diversity in Healthcare Professionals

From undergraduate school to medical school, there’s a lack of diversity in both the students and physicians. We will be looking at the race disparities statistics in medical school applications and how it continues on throughout the whole health care system. We’ll explore how and why it is important to decrease the racial gaps to further improve patient health care access and experiences.


Action Items:

Day Four: Race, Genetics, and Health Disparities

Today we will explore how race and genetics are discussed in the medical field. Often during the first few years of medical school, students are taught to generalize and associate. For example, if you hear “black” in a question, you’re told to select “sickle-cell.” The problem with that association is that it could lead to misdiagnosis and missed diagnoses. Because sickle-cell protects against malaria, it may also be seen in other populations such as in Greece. Today’s focus is exploring the impact science has had on replacing ideas of race as biological.


Action Items:

  • Complete and discuss this activity
  • Learn more about why we need to rely more on genetics and less on skin color and race by watching these TED talks
  • Discuss the following questions in your AMSA chapter about genetic testing:
    • Could genetic testing help reduce or increase disparities?
    • Why is there a fear of discrimination by insurance companies, employers, and society as a result of genetic testing?
    • What are the altrications of each form of genetic testing: diagnostic, carrier, and predictive testing?
    • How can genetic testing benefit your life as well as your children’s life?

Day Five: Cultural Competency in Health

As we have discussed throughout this week, health disparities are prevalent across our healthcare system. As the U.S. population becomes increasingly diverse, they are likely to increase if not adequately addressed. One way to address these disparities is through cultural competency. Cultural competency can increase patient engagement, utilization of preventive services, treatment adherence rates and overall health status. As the population becomes more diverse, it is a social justice imperative that health care providers, employers, and health plans recognize the need to deliver culturally competent care and services to improve health outcomes, lower the total cost of care, and improve patient satisfaction.


Key Definitions:

Cultural competence is the ability to interact effectively with people of various racial, ethnic, socioeconomic, religious and social groups. Working towards cultural competence is an ongoing process, one often tackled by learning about the patterns of behavior, beliefs, language, values, and customs of particular groups.

Cultural humility involves an ongoing process of self-exploration and self-critique combined with a willingness to learn from others. It means entering a relationship with another person with the intention of honoring their beliefs, customs, and values. It means acknowledging differences and accepting that person for who they are.

Source: https://soundscapingsource.com/cultural-humility-vs-cultural-competence/

Action Items:

  • Tune into our webinar with Dr. Meleo-Erwin on 1/31 at 2 pm EST
    • Health Beliefs, Practices, and Experiences in Socio-political and Cultural Contexts: Considerations for medical practitioners
    • Zoe Meleo-Erwin is an Assistant Professor of Public Health at William Paterson University. She received her doctorate in sociology from the Graduate Center of the City University of New York in 2013 and holds master’s degrees in social ecology from Goddard College, and disability studies from the City University of New York School of Professional Studies. Her primary research projects explore how individuals make the decision to have weight loss surgery, pre- and post-surgical experiences of embodiment, and the post-operative relationship between weight loss surgery patients and their home surgical clinics. Her research interests include health disparities, structural determinants of health, weight-based stigma, food-based health movements, and decision making around vaccination. Learn more about her at www.zoemeleoerwin.com
  • Watch this TED talk on the role of culture in healing
  • Check out this report on how to improve cultural competence in your healthcare organization

Race and Genetics – January 21, 2019

Today, we explore how race and genetics are taught in medical school. Often during the first few years of medical school, students are taught to generalize and associate. For example, if you hear “Black” in a question, you’re told to select “sickle-cell”. The problem with that association is that it could lead to misdiagnosis and missed diagnoses. Because sickle-cell protects against Malaria, it may also be seen in Greek populations and others. Today’s focus is exploring the impact science has had on replacing ideas of race as biological.


– Host this activity with your chapter at a luncheon or chapter meeting

– Learn more about why we need to rely more heavily on genetics and less on skin color and race by watching these TED talks: The Biology of Race in the Absence of Biological Races, and What’s Race Got to Do with Medicine?

– Ask a doctor about their thoughts on viewing race as a risk factor and if it helps or hurts us in caring for diverse populations

Race During Medical School – January 22, 2019

If you’ve ever experienced any race-related issues during your undergraduate education, you might be surprised to know they often continue into medical school. Today, we explore how a student’s race might come into play in everything from professors treating a medical student differently in a lecture hall to race issues within the hospitals. Why are professors in today’s education system still hold these biases? What biases might we hold, and what can we do about them?


– Premeds! Check out this interesting Op-ed: How To Tell If Your Program’s Diversity Is a Hologram

– Check out this M.D.’s view on race’s importance in the hospital

– Learn about a physician’s perspective on White Privilege in a White Coat or another physician’s What It’s Like to Be a Black Man in Medical School

– Reflect on your personal encounters with disparities (i.e. being of a minority population and pursuing medicine), or stories that you’ve heard from friends, family, acquaintances

What is Whiteness? – January 23, 2019

Today we seek to provide evidence that race is a social construct. Too often, people don’t give a second thought when asked to self-identify, however, we should stop and consider how these lines are made up artificially. Why are they made up? Who stands to benefit from these classifications?


– Learn about How the Jews Became White Folks.

– Understand exactly Who Invented White People.

– Reflect on the first article provided for today.  How fair is it to say that Jews became successful due to their own abilities and efforts? To what degree did government programs play a part in this upward mobility?

– Learn about your own biases by taking this quick assessment: – Take “Race” and “Arab-Muslim” implicit bias tests here: Implicit Association Tests. Do you believe these tests? How will knowing these biases change the way we approach patient care, if at all?

Physician Diversity – January 24, 2019

Did you know that even though 39% of full-time faculty are female; female faculty from some racial minority groups continue to be underrepresented in academic medicine? Only 4% of full-time faculty identify as Black or African American, Latino or Hispanic, Native American or Alaska Native, or Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander females.1(AAMC) As time has passed, there has been a rise of physicians from underrepresented minority groups which ultimately contributes to a decreasing health disparities gap; however there remains a large need for more minority physicians and minority physician leaders.


– Learn about Current Trends in Medical Education1, as it relates to physician diversity and demographics

– Interview a doctor on this topic

– Volunteer at an underserved community health clinic

Call For Action – January 25, 2019

With our overall goal of decreasing health disparities and increase the number of physicians of color, today we focus community outreach. We would like to make high school students and undergraduate students aware that there are diversity offices in medical schools.


– If you are a medical student, contact your medical school’s diversity office and request pamphlets/scholarship information. Disseminate this information to nearby colleges and high schools in impoverished areas. You could talk to the career advice office of high schools and ask them to host you to answer questions for interested students.

– If you are a college student, contact a nearby medical school’s diversity office and request pamphlets/scholarship information. Disseminate this information to your classmates through your local AMSA chapter. Go into the community and deliver this information to high schools.

– Take a moment and reflect on information from this week. What will you do differently from now on, if anything?

Mental Health – April 16, 2018

One in five adults in the U.S. suffer from a mental health condition within a given year.  We want to raise awareness of these disorders, destigmatize them, and empower people with resources and knowledge.  Mental health is as serious and real as physical disorders; it is time for our us to treat them as such.

Activity Ideas:

– Look at these fun mindfulness activities for Children and Teens

– Facilitate a 1-2 hour group activity with this Mental Health Awareness Activity

– Check out this free mental health resource library, packed with anxiety reducing worksheets, planners, gratitude exercises and more.

– Learn more about why we need to speak more openly about mental illnesses by watching these TED talks: Joshua Walter: On Being Just Crazy Enough or Ruby Wax: What’s so Funny about Mental illness


Social Determinants of Health – April 17, 2018

“It is impossible to understand people’s behavior…without the concept of social stratification, because class position has a pervasive influence on almost everything…the clothes we wear…the television shows we watch…the colors we paint our homes and the names we give our pets…Our position in the social hierarchy affects our health, happiness, and even how long we will live.” – William Thompson, Sociologist (Society in Focus: An Introduction to Sociology)

Activity Ideas:

– Check out this TED Talk: Social Determinants of Health by Claire Pomeroy

– Look up the nearest grocery store, how long would this trip take if you didn’t have a car? Are there any food deserts in your city?

– Reflect on your personal encounters with disparities (i.e. being of a minority population and pursuing medicine), or stories that you’ve heard from friends, family, acquaintances.


Age-Related Topics – April 18, 2018

Today we consider how social factors affect the life expectancy of different races. We also explore the leading causes of death.

Activity Ideas:

– Check out this TED Talk: How Racism Makes Us Sick by David R. Williams

– Read an article on Mortality in the United States

– Reflect on the article and TED Talk provided for today.  Identify the race that has the lowest life expectancy and the race with the highest life expectancy.  Why do you believe these statistics match these rates?


Race in Medicine – April 19, 2018

Today we explore how topics of race are present in and affect medical training and decision making. “Race isn’t a good category to use… leads researchers down the wrong path and leads to harmful results for patients. For example, black patients who have the symptoms of cystic fibrosis aren’t diagnosed because doctors see it as a white disease.” – Dorothy Roberts, Sociologist and a professor at University of Pennsylvania Africana Studies department.

Activity Ideas:

– Interview a doctor on this topic

– Read an article on Racial Profiling in the Management of Chronic Illness

– Take “weight” and “race” implicit bias tests here: Implicit Association Tests. Do you believe these tests? How will knowing these biases change the way approach patient care, if at all?

– If a stereotype applies to your background, how does it make you feel? How is this feeling different from that elicited by a stereotype that does not apply to you?


Health Care of Inmates/Incarceration – April 20, 2018

In a landmark 1986 case, Estelle v. Gamble, the Supreme Court held that not providing adequate medical care to prisoners was a violation of the Constitution’s Eighth Amendment against cruel and unusual punishment. Learn more about healthcare of inmates.

Activity Ideas:

– Check out this TED Talk: Mental Health and Criminal Justice by Crystal Dieleman

– Read an article on Incarceration, the War on Drugs, and Public Health

– What are your reflections from this week and what will you do differently from now on, if anything?

Day One: What is Race? Live Webinar ft. Dr. Sharon Washington View recording here

Most of us hear about race as a social construct and not a biological one, but rarely do we learn who created this idea. Why? Who does this divisive and unscientific construct benefit and why? How did the idea of race perpetuate after those people were gone? On day one, we will explore these questions in our attempt to create a shared understanding of the meaning and origins of race as a social, historical, and political construct.

Day Two: The Existence of Disparities Webinar ft. Dr. Theresa Duello View recording here

History has produced health disparities that disproportionately impact communities of color. This discussion will provide an overview of the social and biological determinants of health disparities as well as the interplay between them.

Day Three: Race & Racism in Medicine Webinar ft. Dr. Jennifer Edgoose and Dr. Parvathy Pillai View recording here!

Explore how issues of race, racism, privilege and notions of (white) supremacy are evident in medicine and medical training as well as the physician’s implicit and explicit attitudes about race.

Day Four: Talking Race, Ethnicity, and Culture

Today we will think about how to participate in tricky and intimidating conversations around race, ethnicity, and culture as well as how to ACTIVELY raise awareness about these topics.

Day Five: Call for Action Webinar ft. Luis Perez with Baylor COM View recording here

Together we will explore action items toward moving our respective schools toward a collective vision of the institution as an anti-racist and ethnically and culturally-sensitive medical school and hospital.

“Lessons from History: A Look at the Tuskegee Syphilis Study”
podcast episode from the John Cowley Division of Medical Ethics and Humanities by SUNY Downstate

Race and Language in Healthcare:The Impact on Quality of Care
Aswita Tan‐McGrory, MBA, MSPH

WhiteCoats4BlackLives Step-by-Step Action guide–Set up a meeting with your Dean!

Follow AMSA REACH on Facebook.