Illustrative image for Eliminating Racial Health Inequities An IRB s Antiracist Intervention

Hastings Center News

Eliminating Racial Health Inequities: An IRB’s Antiracist Intervention

The use of racial categories in biomedical research often misattributes the cause of health inequities to genetic and inherent biological differences rather than to racism. Improving research practices around race and ethnicity is an urgent priority. Toward that end, the Emory University institutional review board recently instituted an antiracist intervention, described in an article in the latest issue of Ethics & Human Research.

The intervention is a change to the research protocol submission process that requires researchers to do three things: 1) describe the definition they are using for “race” and/or “ethnicity, 2) state whether they are using racial and ethnic classifications to describe or explain differences between groups, and 3) justify any use of race and/or ethnicity as a variable to explain differences between research participants. (In other words, what is race being used as a proxy for?)

“Our intervention was a simple evidence-based change . . . that we believe could have a significant impact on the production of high-quality research that makes meaningful strides toward eliminating racial health inequities,” write Francois Rollin, an assistant professor at Emory School of Medicine, and colleagues at Emory. “We recognize that this antiracist intervention at the Emory University IRB is nascent and will require further refinement over time. We encourage other institutions to pursue similar interventions at their institutions.”