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Structural Competency in the U.S. Healthcare Crisis: Putting Social and Policy Interventions Into Clinical Practice


This symposium of the Journal of Bioethical Inquiry illustrates structural competency: how clinical practitioners can intervene on social and institutional determinants of health. It will require training clinicians to see and act on structural barriers to health, to adapt imaginative structural approaches from fields outside of medicine, and to collaborate with disciplines and institutions outside of medicine. Case studies of effective work on all of these levels are presented in this volume. The contributors exemplify structural competency from many angles, from the implications of epigenetics for environmental intervention in personalized medicine to the ways clinicians can act on fundamental causes of disease, address abuses of power in clinical training, racially desegregate cities to reduce health disparities, address the systemic causes of torture by police, and implement harm-reduction programs for addiction in the face of punitive drug laws. Together, these contributors demonstrate the unique roles that clinicians can play in breaking systemic barriers to health and the benefit to the U.S. healthcare system of adopting innovations from outside of the United States and outside of clinical medicine.

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Correspondence to H. Hansen.

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Hansen, H., Metzl, J. Structural Competency in the U.S. Healthcare Crisis: Putting Social and Policy Interventions Into Clinical Practice. Bioethical Inquiry 13, 179–183 (2016).

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  • Structural competency
  • Healthcare
  • United States
  • Global health
  • Social medicine
  • Inequality