Moving past conflation of race and genetics

In a new viewpoint article in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Pediatrics, two researchers from Penn’s School of Nursing explore the history behind, and implications of, the conflation of race and genetics using examples from the pediatric literature. They provide insight into why it’s a fallacy and what scientists and clinicians can do to move past the use of race as a tool for classification in laboratory and clinical research.

Visual representation of a DNA sequence.

“We need to admit that race is a social construct and conduct research accordingly. Continuing education is urgently needed for scientists and clinicians about the differences between genetics and race,” says Rebecca Clark, assistant professor of nursing at the Center for Health Outcomes and Policy Research and one of the authors of the article.

In the article, the authors discuss two studies which examined racial differences in the development and treatment of neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS), sometimes more specifically called neonatal opioid withdrawal syndrome (NOWS), among Black and white newborns. The studies reported racial differences in treatment and interpreted this as reflecting genetic differences between the study participants, instead of interpreting their findings as an example of racism appearing in the form of inequitable treatment according to race.

Read more at Penn Nursing News.