Addressing Adultification of Black Pediatric Patients in the Emergency Department: A Framework to Decrease Disparities

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Health Promot Pract. 2021 Oct 23:15248399211049207. doi: 10.1177/15248399211049207. Online ahead of print.


Systematic racism and structural discrimination in the United States are factors that have negatively affected the health of Black individuals and families. One form of racism that often goes unrecognized and yet has a profound negative impact on the health and safety of Black children is adultification. Adultification occurs when children are perceived, or treated, as being older than they are. We implemented the Racism as a Root Cause framework to identify ways health care providers and health care systems can work to dismantle inequities and address the adultification of Black children in the emergency department (ED). A shift to change policies, systems, and environments in the ED begins with recognition of blind spots through training, communication, and reflection. Utilizing methods to identify adultification and racism, such as the ICD-10-CM Diagnosis Code Z60.5 Target of (perceived) adverse discrimination and persecution, can assist providers in recognizing the prevalence of racism and discrimination. To reduce the harms of inequities, injustice, and impacts of racism on Black children in the ED, it is essential to use trauma-informed care in all interactions. It is crucial for all employees of the ED to understand that adultification is extremely prevalent, hard to recognize, and causes harm to the health of Black children and their families. Without conscious efforts to decrease the pervasiveness and detriment of adultification bias, the repercussions of such racism will continue to perpetuate medical mistrust and negative health care experiences for Black children and families.

PMID:34693783 | DOI:10.1177/15248399211049207