Why Health Affairs can't promote its latest issue

Health Affairs' entire February issue is devoted to the topic of racism and health, but Google and Twitter are blocking its paid media ads to promote the content, flagging racism as "sensitive content." 

"Sure, racism is 'sensitive content,' which is what we were told by each platform," ​​Patti Sweet, Health Affairs' director of digital strategy, wrote. "But the research we published is exactly the sort of sensitive content our country needs right now: peer-reviewed research rooted in sound methods that demonstrate and explore the relationship between racism and health."

The issue contains more than 20 peer-reviewed articles anchored in the intersection of racism and health, such as "Negative Patient Descriptors: Documenting Racial Bias In The Electronic Health Record," "Racial And Ethnic Disparities In Patient Experience Of Care Among Nonelderly Medicaid Managed Care Enrollees," and "Structural Racism And Black Women's Employment In The U.S. Healthcare Sector." 

Noting the years of planning and thousands of hours of work that went into the February issue, Ms. Sweet said Health Affairs aimed to ensure nonsubscribers were aware of it through paid placement of the content on Twitter and Google (via YouTube) targeted to individual users based on interests, profession, age and location. The two platforms' automated systems flagged the term "racism" as sensitive content and withheld approval for the paid ads, effectively placing them in digital limbo. 

Health Affairs is in the process of appealing the decisions. "But we are already three days post issue launch, which means we are at least two weeks late to the promotion game for an issue of this caliber," Ms. Sweet noted. 

In the meantime, Health Affairs isn't waiting on Twitter or Google to cut the red tape. The peer-reviewed health policy journal is calling on individuals to overpower digital gatekeepers.

"We can't change the algorithm so let's play the game," Ms. Sweet wrote. "The more shares, clicks, views, comments, etc. that this post and all our content on racism and health gets, the more signals we send. These signals tell the platforms that our content is important, that we have the authority to publish on this topic — and that users like you want to read it."

"Join us in our small act of civil disobedience. When it comes to our issue of Racism & Health, read it. Listen to it. Watch it. Search for it. Share it. Tweet about it. Email it. We hope our ads will show up soon. Until then, let's beat the algorithm." 

You can find Health Affairs' February issue devoted to health and racism here.

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