WASHINGTON—America’s Essential Hospitals, whose member hospitals care for people and communities afflicted by structural racism and the inequities it creates, has announced an initiative to confront this urgent public health threat.
“The deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and so many others have forced a long overdue national reckoning over racial justice and equity,” says association board of directors Chair Susan Ehrlich, MD, MPP, CEO of Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center. “We must lead that conversation for our hospitals and the marginalized populations they serve.”
The association’s more than 300 members represent many of the country’s foremost safety-net providers, a role that puts them at the center of endemic social and economic disparities that plague communities of color—food and housing insecurity, poverty, and many others.
“Our hospitals have long confronted and worked to overcome these pervasive social determinants of health,” says association President and CEO Bruce Siegel, MD, MPH. “This initiative is about looking upstream to understand what actions we can take to confront the structural racism and social injustices at the root of so many of these problems.”
Siegel says the association itself will be as much a focus of the initiative as the opportunities among its member hospitals to combat structural racism. “We will hold a mirror up to ourselves and examine our own governance practices and public positions,” he said. The developing initiative, to be spearheaded by several association member committees, will include three prongs:
- identifying and fostering adoption of groundbreaking and transformative health system approaches to combat structural racism;
- building partnerships on social justice with other national organizations while clarifying and enhancing the association’s own policy principles regarding equity; and
- advancing America’s Essential Hospitals ongoing work to ensure diversity in its board and other governance bodies.
The initiative will include member leaders from Essential Hospitals Institute, the association’s research, education, leadership development, and dissemination arm. The Institute’s board and committees have guided much of the association’s research and education regarding social determinants of health and will complement the governance and policy focus of the association’s board.
The initiative is expected to produce recommendations to the America’s Essential Hospitals board this fall that will form the foundation of a comprehensive, member-driven plan of action on structural racism.
“Our association has always been guided by a vision of equity in health and health care,” Ehrlich says. “But achieving this requires dismantling a four-century-old system of structural racism. This initiative begins our work to realize that vision.”
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About America’s Essential Hospitals
America’s Essential Hospitals is the leading champion for hospitals and health systems dedicated to high-quality care for all, including the vulnerable. We support our more than 300 members with advocacy, policy development, research, and education. Communities depend on essential hospitals to provide specialized, lifesaving services; train the health care workforce; advance public health and health equity; and coordinate care. Essential hospitals innovate and adapt to lead the way to more effective and efficient care. Learn more at essentialhospitals.org.
About Essential Hospitals Institute
Essential Hospitals Institute is the research, education, dissemination, and leadership development arm of America’s Essential Hospitals. The Institute supports the nation’s essential hospitals as they provide high-quality, equitable, and affordable care to their communities. Working with members of America’s Essential Hospitals, we identify promising practices from the field, conduct research, disseminate innovative strategies, and help our members improve their organizational performance. We do all of this with an eye toward improving individual and population health, especially for vulnerable people.