Failure of race-based medicine? We aren’t accounting for the unique genetics of biracial and multiracial populations

By Rachele Hendricks-Sturrup, Genetic Literacy Project

For several decades in modern medicine history, human race has been used as a constant variable to predict and/or determine our disease risks, biometric profiles, health behaviors and outcomes. It drives many of our medical standards, including clinical guidelines, medical school curricula, and clinical decision support tools and algorithms. This reductionist approach to medicine, however, has proven questionable and risky for biracial and multiracial individuals with high levels of phenotypical (physically-apparent) and genotypical (physically non-apparent) variation.

Some clinical study reports  describe how race-based approaches to health diagnosis and management have led to inaccurate assessments in medical practice, especially in cases of bone marrow transplants for multiracial populations. Susan Graham is the president of Project RACE (Reclassify All Children Equally), an organization advocating for multiracial classification in health care settings for people of two or more races. In an interview with the Genetic Literacy Project, she explained that “a multiracial person’s best chance of bone marrow donor acceptance must take [multi]race into account to get as perfect a match as possible.” That’s why we need to do more, as a society, to expand the number and diversity of bone marrow donors to help solve this issue for multiracial populations, she said.

Race versus genetics: Social constructs or health determinants

The idea of race as a social construct has been well researched, with some classically defined racial groups experiencing greater hardships – including poor access to health care services – than other racial groups in the US.

Questions also have arisen regarding the use of race as a health determinant, due to recent advancements and novel findings in genomics, ancestry, and medicine. Read more …



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