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Just Medicine: A Cure for Racial Inequality in American Health Care, Dayna Bowen Matthew

Reviewed by Nancy López



In 1903, sociologist W.E.B. Du Bois argued that the problem of the twentieth century was the color line. More than a century later, an Institute of Medicine report titled Unequal Treatment (2003) painstakingly documented the continuing presence of a color line in health care delivery. Regardless of income, wealth, or education levels, visible minorities still receive unequal care. What is paralyzing a profession like medicine, which is dedicated to ethical treatment and social justice, from eliminating documented racialized inequities?

In Just Medicine: A Cure for Racial Inequality in American Health Care, Dayna Bowen Matthew makes a bold argument: implicit bias and unconscious racism are the elephants in the room that no one seems to want to talk about. As enduring social structures and fundamental causes of unjust, inevitable, and avoidable racialized injustices in health, implicit bias and unconscious racism must be named and confronted by all stakeholders. Matthew supports these arguments by reviewing the vast interdisciplinary social science research evidence base on the causal mechanisms linking implicit bias and unconscious racism to the delivery of unequal health care for stigmatized minorities in the United States. To contextualize these findings, Matthew also conducts informal interviews with physicians, nurses, and patients.

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