Chicago Healthcare Organizations Align Efforts to Combat Systemic Racism in Healthcare
Friday, June 19, 2020
Calling systemic racism a public health crisis, a group of three dozen Chicago healthcare organizations, including UI Health, are pledging to do more to overcome health disparities in minority communities and ensure greater health equity across the city.
The group, which began their work through Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot's Racial Equity Rapid Response Team, initially joined forces to focus on COVID-19 and its disproportionate impact on minority neighborhoods by making testing more accessible, implementing contact tracing, and increasing distribution of PPE across the South Side and the West Side. The organizations expanded their work beyond the pandemic in the wake of the horrifying and unconscionable deaths of George Floyd, Rayshard Brooks, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and others.
"Racism results in generational trauma and poverty, while also unquestionably causing higher rates of illness and death in black and brown communities," the organizers said in an open letter to the Chicago community. "We have seen — in its rawest form — how the trauma of systemic racism adds to the historical injustices that have disproportionately affected communities of color."
The 36 organizations, which include federally qualified health centers, safety net hospitals, and major academic medical centers, collectively care for more than 8 million patients in the Chicago area.
The groups, which have a long history of working to overcome disparities in the communities they serve, committed to take seven action steps to advance their work. These include:
- Re-examining institutional policies with an equity lens and making any policy changes that promote equity and opportunity.
- Improving access to primary and specialty care.
- Continuing to focus on helping communities overcome chronic conditions like diabetes, heart disease and asthma.
- Continuing to advocate for investments that create innovative solutions to achieve enduring improvements in access, quality and health outcomes for our communities.
- Continuing their commitment to hiring locally and promoting leaders of color.
- Renewing and expanding each organization's commitment to providing anti-racism and implicit bias training for physicians, nurses and staff.
- Advocating for increased funding for social needs, social services and programs that promote social justice.
Marcus C. Betts, assistant vice chancellor for external engagement at UI Health, called the open letter "a bold first step."
"The commitments that each institution has made activates a reinvigorated social contract that circumscribes and elevates our shared responsibilities to our city and state," Betts said. "Building on the racial equity platform created by Mayor Lightfoot, we look forward to enthusiastically continuing this work with other stakeholders."
Institutions that signed the letter are:
Access Community Health Network
Advocate Aurora Health
AHS Family Health Center
Alivio Medical Center
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
Heartland Alliance Health
Howard Brown Health
La Rabida Children's Hospital
Lawndale Christian Health Center
Medical Home Network and MHN ACO
Mercy Hospital and Medical Center
UI Health Mile Square Health Center
Near North Health Service Corporation
New Roseland Community Hospital
NorthShore University Health System
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 & Clinics (UI Health)