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'Racism is a public health crisis.' Three Indiana health systems address healthcare inequality

Posted at 12:48 PM, Oct 22, 2020

INDIANAPOLIS — Three of central Indiana's largest healthcare systems announced their plans to address racial discrimination in healthcare.

In a joint statement released Thursday, Community Health Network, Eskenazi Health, and Indiana University Health pledged to do more to end health disparities and inequity in minority communities.

The COVID-19 pandemic has all but heightened the evident disparity of health care equality in America. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Black and Latino patients are two to three times as likely as white patientsto be diagnosed with COVID-19 and more than four times as likely to be hospitalized for it.

In the release, each healthcare system said systemic racism is "a public health crisis," and that many different avenues contribute to the health inequalities in minority communities. The systems listed social and economic inequities such as social determinants of health, such as poverty, inadequate housing, criminal justice bias, food deserts, joblessness, and violence as more examples.

Each hospital's CEO submitted statements on the matter.

“Eskenazi Health stands with our health care partners in condemning racism and hate,” Lisa Harris, M.D., CEO of Eskenazi Health, said. “We are committed to inclusive and thoughtful dialogue, to communicating openly, and to doing all we can to foster equity, compassion and inclusion within our organizations and our community.”

“We are committed to investing in real change. As an employer, as a healthcare provider, and as a community partner we must set the example as we work for improvements to racial and social equity,” Bryan Mills, president and CEO of Community Health Network, said.

“Our local health systems have a long history of collaboration when it comes to improving the lives of Hoosiers,” Dennis Murphy, president and CEO of IU Health, said. “We do not compete in areas of patient safety and quality and we are similarly committed to working together and sharing ideas in eliminating issues of systemic racism in health care.”

Here's how each plan to address racial discrimination in healthcare:

Improving workplaces by:

  • Enhancing a culture of inclusion that seeks, welcomes and values all people. This means we will address and reduce discrimination among team members, patients and guests;
  • Addressing the economic disparities in our community by ensuring our team members have the ability to achieve jobs that pay a livable wage; and,
  • Transforming our organizations through an active review of policies, actions and procedures that have inhibited our ability to fully promote a diverse, equitable, inclusive and anti-racist organization with measures of accountability. One of those actions will be to improve the demographic makeup of our leaders to reflect the Indiana communities we serve with particular focus on people of color.

Improving communities by building meaningful and sustained partnerships to promote healthcare equity and reduce healthcare disparities, impact social determinants of health, and build more inclusive communities by:

  • Improving the equity of care for all patients by regularly measuring, monitoring, and improving the care we provide to underserved populations;
  • Identifying, researching, understanding and addressing racial disparities in healthcare access and outcomes including primary, specialty and behavioral health;
  • Strengthening relationships with other Indiana health systems, as well as state and local municipalities, to improve the health of Indiana, especially in areas that disproportionally affect communities of color;
  • Working with other community organizations (the Indy Chamber, Central Indiana Corporate Partnership and United Way) to develop, endorse, and provide support for creative solutions to social determinants of health, especially affordable housing, food security and workforce development;
  • Deepening our engagement with Indiana organizations that have a mission and history of advocating for underrepresented minorities;
  • Continuing to enhance and deliver on our commitments to minority, women and veteran-owned business suppliers; and,
  • In support of the Alliance for a Healthier Indiana, continuing to advocate for investments that achieve enduring improvements in access, quality and health outcomes for our communities.