36 Chicago-area hospitals name racism a 'public health crisis'

Chicago’s largest hospitals and clinics officially named racism a public health crisis today. In an open letter—coincidentally shared on Juneteenth, a holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the U.S.—36 organizations committed to improving health equity across the city.

In addition to supporting programs that help people of color find healthcare jobs, each organization is pledging to provide anti-racism training for staff and create new policies that promote equity, among other commitments.

“We have a lot of work to do,” said Dr. David Ansell, senior vice president for community health equity at Rush University Medical Center, one of the participating hospitals. “The commitments need to get specific and it’s not going to be easy.”

The group, which collectively treats more than 8 million patients, includes large Chicago-based hospital chains like Rush; safety nets like Loretto Hospital that treat large numbers of low-income patients; and a number of government-funded clinics like Esperanza Health Centers.

Many of the organizations initially came together as part of the city’s Racial Equity Rapid Response Team, addressing the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on communities of color. Black and Brown people in Chicago and other cities are dying from the virus at much higher rates than whites. Meanwhile, long-standing disparities in access to food, housing, education, safety and wealth have led to a 30-year difference in life expectancy between upscale Streeterville, near downtown Chicago and low-income Englewood, on the city’s west side.

Police brutality is another social factor that affects health. In the wake of George Floyd’s killing—and the deaths of countless other Black people across the country—hospitals and clinics “must double down on our efforts,” the letter says.

Impending commitments will address both patients and workers. For example, a policy might ensure that people on Medicaid, as well as those without insurance, have the same access to health care services as people with well-paying coverage. For workers, it could be a commitment to promote people of color in entry-level positions.

Not every Chicago hospital and clinic is involved, but Ansell said no institution declined to participate. “If anyone was left off, it was inadvertent,” he said. “People just showed up at the table.”

To get started, the 36 organizations have identified seven steps they’ll take to address systemic racism, which “is a real threat to the health of our patients, families and communities,” the letter says.

Here are the steps outlined in the group’s open letter:

  • Re-examine our institutional policies with an equity lens and make any policy changes that promote equity and opportunity.
  • Improve access to primary and specialty care.
  • Continue to focus on helping our communities overcome chronic conditions like diabetes, heart disease and asthma.
  • Continue to advocate for investments that create innovative solutions to achieve enduring improvements in access, quality and health outcomes for our communities.
  • Continue our commitment to hiring locally and promoting leaders of color.
  • Renew and expand our organizations’ commitment to providing anti-racism and implicit bias training for our physicians, nurses and staff.
  • Advocate for increased funding for social needs, social services and programs that promote social justice.

Here are the 36 participating organizations:

Access Community Health Network

Advocate Aurora Health

AHS Family Health Center

Alivio Medical Center

AMITA Health

Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago

Aunt Martha’s Health & Wellness

Chicago Family Health Center

Cook County Health

Erie Family Health Centers

Esperanza Health Centers

Friend Health

Heartland Alliance Health

Howard Brown Health

La Rabida Children’s Hospital

Lawndale Christian Health Center

Loretto Hospital

Medical Home Network and MHN ACO

Mercy Hospital and Medical Center

UI Health Mile Square FQHC

Near North Health Service Corporation

New Roseland Community Hospital

NorthShore University Health System

Northwestern Medicine

Norwegian American Hospital

PCC Community Wellness Center

PrimeCare Health Community Health Centers

Oak Street Health

Rush University System for Health

Saint Anthony Hospital

Sinai Health System

South Shore Hospital

St. Bernard Hospital

TCA Health, Inc.

University of Chicago Medicine

University of Illinois Hospital & Health Sciences System

This story first appeared in our sister publication, Crain’s Chicago Business.

Source: modernhealthcare.com

Tags: covid-19, pandemic

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