Angelica Dass challenges racial preconceptions associated with skin color..
(photo credit: ANGELICA DASS)
As racism, discrimination and exclusion have not been eliminated from Israeli society and still affect the health system, a public committee to fight these negative phenomena presented its recommendations to the Health Ministry and Justice Ministry on Thursday. The aim is to promote inclusion of people who are different due to disabilities, color, gender, sexual preferences, ethnic origin and more.
The 127-page report was published not only in Hebrew but also in Arabic and Russian (but not in Amharic or English). Among the recommendations are improved procedures for filing complaints, redesigning shared spaces in medical institutions, the appointment of a designated functionary at each institution to fight racism, discrimination and exclusion, and public information campaigns.
“We are aware that this is a complex and long-term task but determined to act,” said Health Ministry director-general Moshe Bar Siman Tov. “We have to admit openly that we live in a society [still affected by racism, discrimination and exclusion], and this is also reflected in the health system,” he said. “The importance of the committee’s work involves a serious public discourse in which the ministry takes part to repair the wounds of the past and look directly at the blemishes in Israeli society. I thank the committee members for their willingness to deal with a difficult task and congratulate them on the first step in a long journey to fix the situation.”
Justice Ministry director-general Ami Palmor, who leads the government in its “war on racism,” noted: “The struggle against racism is broad and extends in all aspects of our lives – in law, health and education, and only through the right combination of hands can we reduce the phenomenon. The Health Ministry will lead the way in dealing with the issue; it recognizes the existence of racism, discrimination and exclusion and the processes required to uproot it,” he said.
Associate director-general of the Health Ministry Prof. Itamar Grotto, who chaired the advisory committee, said: “Exposure to racism or racist incidents affects health – for example, on depression and blood pressure, smoking, low birth weight and more. Racism has been shown to reduce life expectancy and quality of life. We intend to act in a variety of ways to make the health system better in these aspects.”
Dr. Shlomit Avni, director of the Health Ministry’s division for reducing gaps and head of the department for fighting discrimination, added: “The system faces many challenges, and sometimes the issue of discrimination can be perceived as esoteric. But it must be taken into account that it is essential to the daily life of people who experience racism in multiple systems and that affects their health. There are social groups that have experienced repeated vulnerabilities from the system on the interpersonal level and also as a result of institutional racism that we refer to in the report. It also affects the health of our teams who are exposed to discrimination as well.”
Nir Keidar, the Health Ministry’s deputy director of strategic planning and a member of the committee, said: “Discrimination is a phenomenon of wide dimensions and we have to know how to deal with it. I am proud that the ministry does not hide behind the concepts of political correctness and has created a committee that discussed painful and complex issues in order to begin a real process of dealing with an ugly phenomenon that needs to be removed from the system.”