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Biology, Learning, Sustainability

Seriously!? An unfounded but standard “race correction”?

I’ve had pulmonary function tests, which test how well your lungs function. I don’t come out particularly well. But apparently, if I was Black my results wouldn’t look so bad. This is because there is a so-called race correction applied to results of these tests for Black patients. The thing is, this correction has no biological basis Moffett et al, 2021 – see below for link).

I am often dumbfounded by the assumptions that are/have been made around health in order to maintain the arbitrarily determined hierarchy. I was familiar with some of the assumptions around women’s health and athletics but this race correction is new to me and incredibly disappointing. I want science to investigate real problems but this just shows how biased the questions we ask can be.

Moffett and colleagues examined data for Black or African American patients between 2010 and 2020 with and without the race correction. The results indicate that around 20% of patients may have been undiagnosed and therefore untreated for pulmonary diseases. The authors state that “Our hope is that in identifying the clinical implications of race correction, we can begin to convince other health professionals of the importance of this topic of conversation, developing the science of pulmonary function test interpretation on a stronger scientific foundation to promote more just medical care.”

I am lucky to have a doctor who listens to me and works with me to find solutions. If anything, she is constantly trying to make sure that I’m not understating a concern, which might have come from me walking around with a broken wrist for several days before going in to see someone. But I’ve had doctors in the past who have not: “you can’t have torn cartilage, you’re only 15” despite showing all the signs is my personal favourite. But to have the entire medical field arbitrarily apply a “correction” based on your race that denies your experience and treatment is so disturbing and sadly, I know it’s not unique.

I think one of the skills that we need to teach more of is questioning. It’s hard to come up with questions and we need to encourage and facilitate it so that we can get more people questioning these unfounded assumptions.

About Tai Munro

I am passionate about making science, sustainability, and sport accessible through engaging information and activities.


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