CHICAGO — The American Medical Association (AMA) today called on public officials and the media to utilize the World Health Organization’s globally identified nomenclature for the pandemic – Coronavirus or COVID-19 – and to abstain from using racially-charged and xenophobic language that associates the virus with geography or populations of people. Amid reports of individuals and organizations encouraging use of language like “the Wuhan virus,” “the Chinese coronavirus,” and similar variations, the AMA indicated this verbiage serves no legitimate purpose and is ethically inappropriate, derogatory and divisive.

“With the world reeling from the health and economic crisis of COVID-19, anti-immigrant and racist rhetoric exacerbates the pandemic, threatening people’s wellbeing and driving us further apart,” said AMA President Patrice A. Harris, M.D., M.A. “The AMA strongly condemns xenophobic and race-based scapegoating against Asians and Pacific Islanders in America and against Asian-presenting people. Racism and xenophobia lead to negative health consequences for segments of our population and this shouldn’t be tolerated.”

With reports of hate crimes committed against Asian Americans increasing during the pandemic, the AMA urges proper nomenclature for the virus and a broader rejection of racism and xenophobia, whether interpersonal or structural. Such language and behavior have direct social and public health implications within the environment where physicians practice and deliver care, as well as the communities where they and their patients live.

The AMA urges individuals and organizations within health care to denounce xenophobia and racism—interpersonal and structural—as both are root causes of ongoing health inequities. We also urge physicians, and the organizational bodies that represent them, to adopt a health equity lens in public health and clinical settings, particularly in the face of great health care system strain.

As the nation continues working to confront our country’s history of racism and injustice, the AMA noted the importance of cultural humility and understanding toward all people and to reflect on the dangerous impact of xenophobia and racism, particularly in the time of pandemic crisis. In the delivery of care, a lack of cultural humility can lead to biases —implicit or explicit— that can negatively impact outcomes and the patient-physician relationship.

Last month, to better understand the impact of COVID-19 on different races and ethnicities, the AMA called on HHS to consistently collect comprehensive health outcomes data, including related to COVID-19 hospitalizations, positive tests, and mortalities, and to disaggregate and disclose those data by race and ethnicity. For more information, please visit the AMA’s Health Equity Resource Center for COVID-19.

Through its ongoing work, the AMA is striving to achieve equitable advancement of wellness and distribution of clinical and social resources for all physicians, their patients, prospective patients, and their families as it works to advance health equity. In 2019, the AMA established a Center for Health Equity that is working to achieve optimal health for all.

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About the American Medical Association

The American Medical Association is the physicians’ powerful ally in patient care. As the only medical association that convenes 190+ state and specialty medical societies and other critical stakeholders, the AMA represents physicians with a unified voice to all key players in health care.  The AMA leverages its strength by removing the obstacles that interfere with patient care, leading the charge to prevent chronic disease and confront public health crises and, driving the future of medicine to tackle the biggest challenges in health care.