UHA and other state health care leaders issue statement on racism as a public health crisis

The Utah Hospital Association joined 11 other leaders in the state’s health care system on Tuesday to make a statement regarding systemic racism in health care and the steps they will be taking to address the crisis. 

The steps the Utah health care community will be taking include addressing disparities in COVID-19 cases and treatments, increased diversity in hiring, investing in community health programs and listening to the experiences of their patients and colleagues of color. 

 

 

“At Intermountain we’ve listened hard,” said Dr. Marc Harrison, CEO and President of Intermountain Healthcare. “We’ve listened to our patients, we’ve listened to our members, we’ve listened to our caregivers, and what we’ve heard saddened us at times. It caused us great concern, especially when we realized racism is affecting the health and wellbeing of the people we’re meant to serve.”

Leaders from University of Utah Health and Intermountain Healthcare said the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted disparities that exist in the health care system. In Utah, Latinx people account for 12.4 percent of the population, but 24 percent of COVID-19 cases. There is a similar theme in Black and Pacific Islander populations in Utah, who have 2.8 percent of cases but represent 1.6 percent of the population.

“We have clearly identified that racism is one of those determinants of health that we must address, in order to improve health and wellbeing across our service area,” said Mikelle Moore, Senior Vice President and Chief Community Health Officer of Intermountain Healthcare.

Multiple studies have linked racism to adverse health outcomes. They show that the stress associated with racism can lead to chronic conditions, like heart disease, diabetes and strokes, that can greatly shorten a person’s life expectancy. These chronic conditions are often easily treatable. 

People of color and rural communities are also more likely to experience health disparities related to access to care and access to broadband and telephone services.

The steps these 12 associations have pledged to take are:

  • Champion investments that will create solutions to achieve improvements in access, quality and health outcomes for communities.
  • Focus on helping communities overcome chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and asthma which disproportionately affect marginalized communities.
  • Ensure diversity in hiring practices and support promoting people of color in their career growth.
  • Improve access to primary and specialty care.
  • Re-examine institutional policies with an equity lens and change any policies that do not promote equity and opportunity.
  • Recommit to providing anti-racism and implicit bias training for leaders, physicians, nurses and staff.
  • Advocate for increased funding for social needs, social services and programs that promote social justice.

“I want to emphasize that this is just the beginning,” said Dr. Michael Good, CEO and Dean of University of Utah’s School of Medicine. “Being anti-racist is not something one individual, or one organization becomes overnight. Being anti-racist takes an ongoing commitment.”