Supported by an undeniable evidence base and highly publicized atrocities documenting
the alarming and pervasive impacts of racism on communities of color, policy makers
and public health officials are increasingly declaring racism a public health crisis
– albeit one that has unfolded over more than 400 years.
These designations are intended to ignite seismic changes across all sectors of government,
health care, and education in order to eliminate the permeating effects of racism
- internalized, interpersonal, and institutional - throughout society.
Racism has historically served as an undercurrent behind many of the social determinants
of health such as education, housing, employment, and the built environment that,
in turn, drive inequities in health and health care.
During the global pandemic, these inequities have been exacerbated and amplified as
communities of color are disproportionately decimated by COVID-19.
Brutal and reprehensible killings of African-Americans as well as stigmatization of
immigrants under discriminatory immigration policies have further illustrated the
scope of racial inequities.
Within epidemiologic and health services research, evidence is emerging to document
the deplorable and cumulative effects of racism on children over the life course.9,
10, 11 These experiences produce intergenerational transfer of trauma and compound
adverse consequences of social determinants of health. Indeed, racism permeates nearly
every aspect of American life, beginning with lives of children.
The professional world of pediatrics and the world of academic medicine are not immune
to internalized, interpersonal, and institutional racism as they mirror broader society.
While the 1910 Flexner Report is sometimes credited with establishing the biomedical
model as the gold standard for medical training, it substantially eroded diversity
in medicine as it recommended the closure of five out of seven predominantly black
One legacy of the Flexner Report is that people of color are still vastly underrepresented
among medical students, physicians, and medical school faculty. Progress in workforce
diversity and inclusion has been marginal at best, demonstrating that promotion of
diversity as a key strategy to mitigate against racism is, by itself, insufficient.
In 2019, only 3.6% of full-time faculty were Black or African-American, 5.6% were
Hispanic, and 0.3% were Native American, Alaskan, Hawaiian, or Pacific Islander.
Most medical schools and pediatric residencies have far fewer underrepresented in
medicine (UIM) trainees than they should. The number of African-American males in
medical school is currently lower than it was in 1978.
Further, UIMs continue to bear the disproportionate burden of achieving diversity
and inclusion while simultaneously combatting racism and microaggressions on a regular
As many sectors and industries increasingly deem racism a public health crisis, scientific
journals must also reflect on their mission, structure, and content in order to reshape
the discourse on racism and hold themselves accountable as leaders in the scientific
Historically, scientific journals have functioned to further the progress of science
by publishing and disseminating new research, allowing investigators to keep up to
date with developments in their fields and direct new scientific inquiry. The mission
of Academic Pediatrics is to strengthen the research and educational base of academic
general pediatrics through scholarship in pediatric education, health services, patient
care and advocacy. Our journal's content areas include pediatric education, child
health services, holistic medicine, health policy, and the social, family, community,
and physical environment- among many others. In light of our longstanding commitment
to vulnerable children and families, diversity, and our desire to be effective stewards
of scientific inquiry, we have re-examined our journal structure, policies, and procedures
as they relate to accelerating diversity, inclusion, and equity.
In determining a new standard for publishing, we have reviewed our journal's internal
structure and the content of articles we publish. While our commitment to diversity
and inclusion is strong, the composition of our Editorial Board and Editors has not
aligned with our strategic values. Of the 24 members of our Editorial Board, only
2 are UIM. Of our 15 Editors, only 2 are UIM. While these findings are partly attributable
to low turnover, they fundamentally bring into question how members are recruited
and selected for such positions. In addition, in examining the content of our publications,
we find that although Academic Pediatrics serves as a welcoming journal for articles
on diversity, inclusion, and equity, our journal has not systematically invested in
initiatives to advance the science in these critical fields.
With the responsibility to be a leader in the scientific community, Academic Pediatrics
has developed a set of comprehensive strategies to improve our internal policies,
procedures, and composition and establish a more intentional approach for our publications.
Academic Pediatrics will take a number of steps to address the diversity of our Editorial
Board and Editors. First, we will utilize forthcoming turnover in our Editorial Board
to increase the Board's diversity. We will be substantially more proactive in recruiting
from a very highly qualified and talented pool of UIM that clearly already exists.
Recognizing the need to develop and nurture future Editors from diverse backgrounds,
the journal will also establish a mentoring program to foster the development of junior
UIM faculty interested in journal leadership. The journal will partner with the Academic
Pediatric Association to develop a competitive application process for those interested.
The intended benefit of this program for participants is that it will position UIM
junior faculty for future roles as Editors, both with Academic Pediatrics and other
journals, and provide them with networking and mentoring opportunities with senior
leaders in the field of academic pediatrics. For Academic Pediatrics, this program
will bring diversity to our leadership and impactful perspectives to our strategic
vision and operation as a journal. Our ultimate goal is that our leadership reflects
the diversity of the children our readership serves.
To address journal content, Academic Pediatrics will implement both short-term and
long-term strategies. In the next year, the journal will utilize at least six article
types – Commentaries, Perspectives, Policy Commentaries, Narrative Reviews, In the
Moment, and traditional research articles – to provide a broad lens on how the social
construct of race and racism affect children, families, the health care workforce
who serve them, and academic medicine. Long-term, the journal will implement a bolder
approach to advance the science on racism, unconscious bias, and diversity. We will
continue to publish descriptive studies because it is essential to continue to monitor
and highlight disparities, but we will prioritize evidence-based interventions and
educational programs to address diversity and inclusion, equity, and racism. Although
necessary to elucidate inequities, descriptive and exploratory studies alone are insufficient
to dismantle ingrained structural forces that perpetuate societal inequities which
ultimately impact health. These studies may foster incrementalism, but paradigm shifting,
multi-disciplinary, multi-sector science is needed.
Academic Pediatrics will push the boundaries towards solutions-oriented scholarship.
This will include a Call for Papers on these topics encouraging prospective authors
to submit manuscripts of all journal article types. We will also explore publishing
a Supplement on Racism or part of an issue on Racism that will include our standard
articles plus methodology pieces examining how to apply varying definitions of race/ethnicity,
disparities, and equity to studies of racism and its effect on children and the lifespan.
We will endeavor to amplify the impact of such articles by disseminating them through
our social media channels. The Editorial Board and Editors will also partake in continuing
education on the most advanced theoretical frameworks, methodologies, and statistical
approaches informing high quality research and scholarship on race and racism. We
will consider modifications to editorial, publication, and reviewer guidelines to
advance the rigor and impact of studies addressing these topics.
As our society grapples with the implications of what it means to declare racism a
public health crisis, scientific journals have the opportunity to join a growing number
of industries taking leadership in translating an aspirational agenda into meaningful
action. For scientific journals, it starts with recognizing there is a corresponding
scientific gap that merits attention and investment to foster more impactful studies
on racism. At its core, Academic Pediatrics is committed to improving the health and
well-being of children and developing the futures of academic pediatricians and leaders
through rigorous and innovative research. With these foundational principles, Academic
Pediatrics will elevate our accountability as a journal to bolster our intellectual
investment in the science and scholars with the potential to bring forth a more just
and equitable society for all children and families. While we have no illusion that
we hold all the right answers, our reflection is empowering us to start asking the