Family physicians around the country are speaking out about healthcare disparities in America, a systemic challenge that’s front-and-center again. As the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) notes on its website, “Long-standing systemic health and social inequities have put many people from racial and ethnic minority groups at increased risk of getting sick and dying from COVID-19.
Those inequities – present long before the pandemic – come to life in the powerful documentary, “A Power to Heal,” presented to AAFP members and discussed at a March 10 town hall. The film looks back at the 1960s, and the challenging implementation of a new program, Medicare. Under the guidance of President Lyndon B. Johnson, the federal government used Medicare payments as the incentive to virtually end segregation in hospitals throughout the South and the entire country.
The private viewing of the film, sponsored by the AAFP Foundation’s Center for the History of Family Medicine (CHFM), led to a passionate discussion on how far we’ve come – and how far we still have to go. Speakers included Dr. Barbara Berney, the film’s producer and a distinguished scholar in public health and the U.S. healthcare system.
“I think this is a really important story, and it has become even more important since we made the film,” Berney says. “This is a piece of history that is not widely known, and it points to the importance of social movements and the federal government and policy – and how much difference it all makes. The government can come together with social movements and make progress in areas that improve people’s lives.”
“Our history can help guide us, here and now and in the future,” says Crystal Bauer, MLS, CHFM manager. “We’re glad we could partner with the AAFP on this showing and the town hall, and provide an opportunity for family physicians to understand where we came from, and how that relates to where we are today.”