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Affirmative Action and Health Care

It is high time that our medical journals stick to medicine.

“Expert” class imperialism over purely political issues continues apace. Now, the hyper-woke New England Journal of Medicine has published an advocacy article decrying the Supreme Court ruling against race-based criteria for admissions at Harvard and claiming that affirmative action is a necessary health measure. Yes, you guessed it, it is written by a bioethicist:

Policy debates related to affirmative action have typically focused on its effects on education, employment, and earnings. These debates, however, have generally neglected the important role affirmative action may play in shaping population health.

Oh? How is that? First, better education equals more income, which means better health:

Since education and income are well-established social determinants of health, it stands to reason that any material benefits accruing as a result of affirmative action should positively affect health and that removing these benefits would have the opposite effect. . . . [Emphasis added.]

So, the anxiety and rage caused by blatant racial discrimination against Asian and white students in admissions doesn’t harm their “health”?

Oh, right. Equity. People of color experience better health outcomes if they are cared for by doctors of color:

Affirmative action programs have important consequences for the health care workforce. There is growing evidence that state-level bans on the use of affirmative action in public university admissions in recent decades led to declines in the enrollment of students from historically marginalized populations in public medical schools. Lack of diversity in the physician workforce has implications for population health and health equity, as illustrated by evidence that having access to physicians from concordant racial and ethnic groups may improve trust and engagement with preventive care and, consequently, reduce premature mortality among patient populations that have long faced structural barriers to good health. [Emphasis added.]

Talk About a Stretch!

Finally, affirmative action sends a positive message to people of color, without which, they will live less healthy lifestyles:

A third, and less discussed, mechanism by which affirmative action programs may affect health is through the messages they send to population groups facing structural barriers. These programs — and their termination — can signal to young people about their prospects for upward mobility, their belonging in society, and the degree of systemic discrimination they may face. Such “affective” consequences — namely, the effects of policies on hope and beliefs about opportunities for upward mobility — can meaningfully shape health-related behaviors and outcomes.State bans on affirmative action were associated with large and persistent increases in adverse health-related behaviors (smoking and alcohol use) among Black, Hispanic, and American Indian and Alaska Native adolescents, including those whose college prospects wouldn’t have been directly affected by the policies. . . .

Together, this evidence suggests that the Court’s decision may have negative effects on health in Black, Hispanic, and American Indian and Alaska Native communities that could be long-lasting. [Emphasis added.]

Apparently, affirmative action is actually a form of societally administered health care. Who knew?

Of course, members of the medical establishment and bioethicists have a right to express opinions about how to best ameliorate discrimination and our woeful racial divisions. But as citizens. Their professional expertise is irrelevant to the question. It is high time that our medical journals stick to medicine.

Cross-posted at National Review.

Wesley J. Smith

Chair and Senior Fellow, Center on Human Exceptionalism
Wesley J. Smith is Chair and Senior Fellow at the Discovery Institute’s Center on Human Exceptionalism. Wesley is a contributor to National Review and is the author of 14 books, in recent years focusing on human dignity, liberty, and equality. Wesley has been recognized as one of America’s premier public intellectuals on bioethics by National Journal and has been honored by the Human Life Foundation as a “Great Defender of Life” for his work against suicide and euthanasia. Wesley’s most recent book is Culture of Death: The Age of “Do Harm” Medicine, a warning about the dangers to patients of the modern bioethics movement.

Affirmative Action and Health Care