The world I want for myself, my children, and my community is one where every person has a fair and just opportunity to be as healthy as possible. A world where race can no longer be used to predict life outcomes, and this means, collectively, we must intentionally remove the barriers that prevent optimal health and dismantle systems that perpetuate racism.
Trinity Health is one of the largest not-for-profit, faith-based health care systems in the nation serving diverse communities across 26 states. In early 2020, Trinity Health, like other health systems, was greatly impacted by the extraordinary challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, political unrest, and the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and others. Now, three years later, while many other organizations have pulled back their public and private commitments to diversity, equity, and inclusion, Trinity Health has doubled down on its promise and remains a leader in Catholic health care.
Health is shaped by more than individual choice. Health inequities among people of diverse races and ethnicities are not biological and are not explained solely by socioeconomic status. Racism in medicine and health care is pervasive and the lack of awareness has perpetuated profound health inequities.
Imagine two ladders side by side, the first ladder has rungs evenly spaced apart that allow the climber to go up and down successfully with limited or no barriers. The second ladder has many missing rungs. The actual structure of the ladder is a barrier for the climber to successfully go up and down the ladder—if they can climb it at all. Now, think of the rungs on the ladder as opportunity, resources, and privilege you can see how one climber has an advantage over the other. And the advantage is not solely dependent on an individual’s ability or choice, but the advantage comes from having a well-built, structurally sound ladder. Applying this example to health equity, we see that not everyone has the same opportunity to be healthy, the ladder to health and well- being is different for groups of people, especially Black Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC).
At Trinity Health, we are committed to optimizing the health of all individuals served by our Ministries through the reduction of inequities in medicine. Our work to reduce health and racial inequities include removing clinical algorithms and measures that adjust for race, screening patients and colleagues for social needs and connecting them to community resources to address their needs. We are actively engaging in legislative efforts to advance health equity, and prioritizing the collection, analysis, and usage of data to inform resource allocation and targeted interventions to close the gap in health outcomes for populations experiencing health inequities.
As one of the first national health care systems to acknowledge that racism is a public health crisis and a root cause of health inequity, Trinity Health has positioned itself to be a leader in the advancement of health and racial equity.
While there are many more miles to travel on our journey, our commitment to the common good calls us to remove barriers that are unfair, unjust, and inequitable. I am blessed to help lead this work in an organization where the board of directors and executives leaders continue to make significant investments to advance health and racial equity.