As our association celebrates its 40th anniversary, we look back on a long legacy of working to ensure equity in health care, especially for those affected by the public health threat of structural racism. From the AIDS epidemic to the COVID-19 pandemic, from providing maternal health care to addressing food insecurity, our members have been on the front lines providing care to those affected by this social determinant of health.

The importance of this mission has only been heightened in recent years. One year ago last month, we launched a three-pronged initiative to combat the historical and contemporary policies, practices, and norms that create and reinforce racial group inequity.

In this past year, we’ve advocated for legislation focused on health disparities, including maternal mortality, COVID-19, and infrastructure bills. We convened 26 organizations, including AARP, the Black Women’s Health Imperative, and the Human Rights Campaign, to develop partnerships for future work.

Our recent VITAL2021 annual conference included presentations on equity programs at Alameda Health System, NYC Health + Hospitals, Eskenazi Health, UF Health Jacksonville, University Hospital in Newark, and Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center. We also welcomed keynote speaker, Ibram X. Kendi, Andrew W. Mellon Professor in Humanities at Boston University (BU) and founding director of the BU Center for Antiracist Research, who spoke about the history of racism in health care and the need for antiracist care.

Internally, we’ve formed a work group to improve the diversity of our governance boards, and we’re working to improve hiring and procurement practices and train staff on implicit bias.

Our Institute research has focused on the role of race in opioid addiction treatment, maternal health, climate resilience, and cardiovascular disease management. We’ve shared policies and practices to mitigate structural racism in a recent state policy snapshot and an informational brief on the role of essential hospitals in combating structural racism. We’ve created a new section highlighting structural racism initiatives in our Essential Communities Resource Library, and we encourage members to submit programs to our Program Map.

If you’d like to get more involved in our structural racism initiatives, our Combating Structural Racism Interest Group meets the first Tuesday of the month from 2–3 pm ET. We work to learn from each other by sharing tools, resources, and best practices to fight structural racism inside and outside the hospital walls. Recently, we’ve discussed workplace development and education, inclusion, diversity, and data and measurement. Our next meeting is Aug. 3, and you can join us by emailing Research Associate Hannah Lambalot at

We are proud of our association and members’ work, but we know there is a long way to go. We look forward to working to dismantle structural racism and continuing to fight for equitable health care for the next 40 years.