AAPA Reflects on Martin Luther King Jr. Day 2021

“Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health is the most shocking and the most inhuman because it often results in physical death.” – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., 1966

January 15, 2021

AAPA joins the nation in recognizing Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Monday, Jan. 18. This day was established in 1983 to honor his life and legacy.

While many of Dr. King’s words have had a profound and lasting impact decades after he spoke or wrote them, we reflect this year on the following quote:

“Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health is the most shocking and the most inhuman because it often results in physical death.” 

Dr. King spoke these words at a press conference before his speech to the second convention of the Medical Committee for Human Rights in 1966. Nearly sixty years later, this poignant statement still rings true for many reasons, including how the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated existing health inequities by disproportionately affecting Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) communities.

[The Role of Social Determinants of Health in Clinical Practice and Subsequent Health Outcomes]

 The unfortunate reality of our nation today is that people who are not white have a greater chance of getting COVID-19, and being hospitalized and dying from the virus. Understanding the role of social determinants of health and how they contribute to health inequities is critical to the clinical practice of all healthcare providers.

At its November 2020 meeting, AAPA’s House of Delegates passed new policy to not only advance health equity but also to acknowledge that racism is an ongoing and urgent threat to public health (HX-4100.13). This builds upon AAPA’s values: “We commit to the highest standards and seek to eliminate disparities and barriers to quality healthcare.”

Today, in honor of Dr. King, AAPA reaffirms our commitment to empowering PAs with information, tools, and resources to address health inequities in daily practice, and to use our collective voice to support policy solutions when possible.

AAPA recognizes that focusing on health equity is just one way of working toward Dr. King’s vision of “a more diverse America where all people enjoy the benefits of equality” and that there is much more work to do.

As Dr. King also said, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘what are you doing for others?’”

PAs practice medicine, and as you work every day to improve the health and wellbeing of your patients, we offer the following resources along with ways to participate in virtual MLK Day events and observances.

Resources on Health Equity/COVID-19
COVID-19 Racial and Ethnic Disparities
CDC – Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health
National Academies of Medicine – Resources on Health Equity/COVID-19
HHS Office of Minority Health – COVID-19
CDC – Health Equity and COVID-19
COVID-19 Vaccine Education and Equity Project

MLK Day Virtual Events and Observances
2021 King Holiday “Love Will See You Through” a Virtual Book Reading (Jan 16)
2021 King Holiday Observance Beloved Community Commemorative Service (Jan 18)
AmeriCorps Webinar series: MLK Day of Service in the time of COVID-19
Muhammad Ali Center MLK Day Celebration (Jan 18)
2021 MLK Tribute (Jan 17)
Celebrate MLK Day with MoAD (Jan 18)
Martin Luther King Jr. Day: 9 Ways to Honor His Legacy

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AAPA Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Webinar Series
AAPA Reports on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Efforts to Date
The Case for Diversity and Inclusion in PA Cohorts


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