Of all the places in our society where equity is most urgent, few are as clear—or consequential—as healthcare. We see it in the need for equitable patient care, the persistent challenges we face in the healthcare workforce, and our ability to access care in underinvested communities.

Perhaps like some Savoy readers, I not only have witnessed these inequities – but lived them. But at Mass General Brigham—which includes two academic medical centers, community and specialty hospitals, a rehabilitation network, healthcare at home and dozens of urgent care and community practices across 16 institutions—we have the ability to solve them.

In 2020, we launched United Against Racism. Our campaign is rooted in a belief that systemic racism is a public health issue – and as one of the foremost healthcare systems in the world, we have a responsibility to dismantle it, both inside our walls and out.

I am proud to be part of a team leading this effort today. Powered by a long-term investment and commitment, we are focused on three key areas:

Delivering Equitable Patient Care. One lesson we all learned during the pandemic is that it is not enough to deliver outstanding care – healthcare also needs to be equitable. As a leading research institution, we are committed to better identifying disparities, finding the best ways to close existing gaps, and preventing future disparities from taking root. Multiple disciplines are confronting how racial bias has been “built into” the medical system – examining race in clinical decision tools and policies such as “race multipliers.”

To establish a culture of health equity improvement, we have created system-wide leadership roles, including a Chief Community Health & Health Equity Officer and Senior Medical Director for Health Equity. We have also made significant investments to address barriers to care, hiring multi-lingual digital health navigators, expanding translation and interpreter services, and transforming educational tools and care pathways for more accessible specialty care.

Building an Anti-Racist Workforce. As the largest private employer in Massachusetts, we must also educate and mobilize our workforce to be allies and upstanders in the fight against racism. That starts with increasing the diversity of our boards and leadership teams across the entire system and overhauling our hiring, promotion and retention practices.

Our progress has been measurable. Having set an initial target of having 30% racial diversity on our boards in 5 years, we are ahead of schedule at 28% after only 2 years. To promote allyship, we now require anti-racism and implicit bias training for all 82,000 employees, including our leadership. We are also training hiring managers in structural behavioral interviewing as part of our recruitment efforts. Combined with an ERG Management Platform to increase mentorship and promote community, our goal is to make Mass General Brigham a destination for diverse talent.

Bringing Equitable Care to Communities. Equitable care starts by bringing high-quality care closer to the communities where we live and serve. Through increased screening and resources, mobile care, and by aggressively targeting devastating community health conditions like hypertension and substance use disorder, we can reduce health gaps.

To that end, we have launched population-wide screening for social determinants of health within primary care practices that serve communities most impacted by structural racism and food and housing instability. We have invested in new Community Health Workers to connect patients to community resources and expanded mobile health efforts to bring care to patients outside of the hospital setting.

Critically, at a time of great need, we are also putting behavioral health at the center of these efforts. With more mental health beds than any other non-profit in Massachusetts, we are also providing scholarships, loan repayment, and salary supplements to educational and community-based organizations to prepare the behavioral health workforce of the future.

Confronting the root causes of health inequity certainly won’t be accomplished overnight. As our CEO says, we are “learning as we go.” But one thing we have already learned: that when we are united against racism, we are a force – that not only improves how healthcare is delivered but can actually put an end to health inequities once and for all.

Ms. Brown is Chief Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I) Officer for Mass General Brigham. She is also an attorney and a former registered nurse.

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