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Systemic Racism is a Public Health Crisis

As members and leaders from Utah's healthcare organizations, we believe systemic racism is a real threat to the health of our patients, our families, and our communities. Systemic racism includes a complex array of economic and resource inequalities found throughout significant parts of the U.S. society. Domestic tranquility, for everyone, is an achievable goal.

Racism and discrimination, in any form, are shameful and must be eliminated from our society. The killings of George Floyd, Rayshard Brooks, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor—and too many others—are shocking. To the many community members who have peacefully raised their voices to capture the attention of Utah and the nation, we thank you. To our community members who have been hurt by racism, racial bias, or discrimination, we stand with you. As allies, we are working to end oppression through self-examination and critical thinking about implicit bias and our roles in our homes, organizations, and communities. We believe that our collective, sincere and unyielding actions within our communities can help heal hearts and homes.

We have come together as healthcare providers from across the state and partnered with community-based organizations to respond to COVID-19. This pandemic is shining a spotlight on health disparities that exist within healthcare settings and our communities. In Utah, Hispanics account for 14.2 percent of our state's population but 24 percent of COVID-19 cases. We see a similar theme among our native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander community members, who have 2.8 percent of the COVID-19 cases while representing 1.6 percent of the population.

There are more than 100 studies that have linked racism to adverse health outcomes. This research shows that cumulative experience of racism throughout one's life can induce long-term stress leading to chronic health conditions. People of color are particularly susceptible and experience a disproportionate level of preventable deaths. Black and African American members of our community are more likely than White community members to die from breast cancer, heart disease, and strokes, according to a 2018 report published by the Commonwealth Fund. Moreover, people of color who live in rural or tribal areas experience health disparities amplified by challenges with access to care and access to broadband and telephone services.

We are taking steps to help overcome the healthcare disparities in our communities, including:

  • Addressing COVID-19: We provide testing, direct care, and contact tracing while also advocating for individual practices that flatten the curve. We are partnering with the Utah Department of Health and local health departments to provide services and personal protective equipment to marginalized communities and educational programs such as:

o Emotional Health Relief Hotline
o HERO Project
o #MaskUpUtah
o ProjectProtect

  • Hiring: We have implemented and are improving hiring programs that build pipelines for people of color to find healthcare careers.
  • Investing in our communities: We are keeping dollars in our community to create jobs and rebuild strained and decimated economies. We are striving to increase the percentage of locally-sourced goods we purchase from sustainable, diverse suppliers.
  • Listening: Many in our organizations will never know the struggle racism, in all its forms, causes for our colleagues at work and our community members. We vow to listen to our patients and colleagues of color and to learn from their experiences. We commit to being allies, advocates, and partners in being the change we want to see in the world.

Much work still needs to be done, including how we support the community in which we live and how members of these communities access care.

To address the public health crisis of racism, we commit to:

  • Champion investments that create innovative solutions to achieve enduring improvements in access, quality, and health outcomes for our communities.
  • Focus on helping our communities overcome chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, and asthma, disproportionally affecting marginalized community members.
  • Reinforce our hiring practices to ensure diversity and support promoting people of color in their career growth.
  • Improve access to primary and specialty care.
  • Re-examine our institutional policies with an equity lens and change any policies that do not promote equity and opportunity.
  • Renew and expand each organization's commitment 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.

Our society only truly thrives when everyone has an opportunity to succeed and live a healthy life. We are committed to moving forward together. By harnessing our organizations' collective strengths, we will help all our community members live their healthiest lives.

The following health care systems/hospitals have signed this statement:

  • Association for Utah Community Health
  • Fourth Street Clinic
  • Gunnison Valley Hospital
  • Highland Ridge Hospital
  • Huntsman Cancer Institute
  • Intermountain Healthcare
  • KPC Promise Hospital of Salt Lake
  • Moab Regional Hospital
  • MountainStar Healthcare
  • Northern Utah Rehabilitation Hospital
  • Psychiatric Behavioral Solutions
  • Shriners Hospitals for Children — Salt Lake City
  • Steward Health Care
  • The Marian Center
  • University of Utah Health
  • Utah Department of Health
  • Utah Hospital Association
  • VA Salt Lake City Health Care System