The British government announced on Sunday that it has opened an independent investigation to investigate whether there is a “systematic bias” in the development of medical technology devices after the issue was raised by COVID-19.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid said he would work with his US counterpart Javier Becerra as well as other countries to analyze “these valuable technologies”.
In an article published on Sunday in the Sunday Times, Javid cited research indicating that oximeters, which monitor oxygen levels and have been used in pandemics, are less accurate with darker-skinned people.
“One of the principles of our (health system) is the equivalence and the possibility that bias, even if unintentional, may lead to poor health outcomes, is completely unacceptable,” he wrote.
He added that “we urgently need to learn about the bias in these tools and how it affects the front line.”
He said that is why “I launched an independent investigation into any systematic bias existing in existing gadgets, and if there is, how to address it.”
Javid, the son of Pakistani immigrants, is the first person from an ethnic minority to become the head of the British Health Secretary.
He said the assessment would include all medical devices and other general bias, such as gender, in addition to racial.
He indicated that his concern about the issue comes from seeing the health disparities that came to the fore during the worst of the coronavirus crisis.
Black, Asian and other ethnic minorities accounted for 28% of all significant COVID-19 cases in hospitals in England, more than twice their representation in the total population.
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