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Race and medicine have a long, fraught history. From eugenics to social Darwinism to medical experiments on slaves, the use of race as a basis for medical decisions has been popular among physicians, but has often been marred by inaccuracies or devolved into outright racism. The burgeoning field of precision medicine, however, with its science-fiction sheen, seeks to reveal and disentangle the social and genetic health factors that race only approximates.
While recent advances in medicine have made the field more sophisticated and less overtly racist, race can still present problems. Self-identified race does roughly correlate to some of the genomic, ancestral, and environmental factors that affect health––sickle-cell anemia being one example––and doctors have gotten better at dealing with race as a data point.
But even now, race can offer contradictory evidence or even produce physician decisions that lead to harm. Disparities between races persist in almost every measurable health outcome. Part of the difficulty is that race is a social construct that only partly reveals scientific information about a patient.
Read full, original post: Precision Medicine’s Post-Racial Promise