Northwell joins 38 health systems in declaring racism a public health crisis

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Staff at hospitals across Northwell Health rallied over the summer in remembrance of George Floyd and to express a commitment to eliminating racism. (Photo courtesy of Northwell Health)

Northwell Health, a member of the national collaborative Healthcare Anchor Network (HAN), has joined health systems across the country in declaring racism a public health crisis. The 39 health systems that signed the HAN statement, Racism is a Public Health Crisis, employ more than half a million individuals across 45 states and Washington, DC, and have committed to taking concrete action to address the impact of structural racism.

Moved by the deaths of George Floyd, Rayshard Brooks, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and too many others, these health systems stand together with all those who have lifted their voices in protest and issue a call to action. For Northwell Health, taking action to overcome systemic racism and the health care disparities in the communities it serves is a core philosophy that includes investing, procuring and hiring locally. It also means tracking the progress of these efforts and actively engaging and listening to patients and colleagues of color, modifying behaviors where needed and learning from these collective experiences.

“As the largest health care provider in the world’s most diverse metropolitan area, Northwell has a responsibility to support the communities that entrust us with their care,” said Michael J. Dowling, president and CEO of the health system. “We are steadfast in our focus on improving health outcomes for our vulnerable and underrepresented communities that have suffered because of the prevalence of chronic disease, a problem that led to the disproportionately higher death rate among African-Americans and Latinos during the COVID-19 pandemic. We are committed to using every tool at our disposal –as a provider of health care, employer, purchaser and investor – to combat disparities and ensure the equity of care that everyone deserves.”

In May, Northwell was named the nation’s top health system for diversity by DiversityInc for its unflagging focus on inclusion, empowerment and health equity. Northwell’s Center for Equity of Care was launched a decade ago to guide and accelerate the health system’s efforts to eliminate health disparities and deliver culturally sensitive care. Among other initiatives, it has spearheaded the prioritization of minority suppliers and partners as part of Northwell’s vendor strategy. The Center has also established numerous Business Employee Resource Groups in partnership with human resources to enhance recruitment and retention of culturally diverse employees and provide greater insight into the needs and priorities of Northwell’s communities.

“Racism is a public health crisis. In Black and Indigenous communities and communities of color we see higher rates of illness and death as a result of systemic racism,” said Healthcare Anchor Network Director David Zuckerman. “We need to harness our collective strength to invest in our communities and to more intentionally hire and buy from local BIPOC communities so that all people can be healthy and thrive. We all must better understand and act to change the impacts of systemic racism on social and economic conditions and health outcomes.”

Investment in Black and Indigenous communities and communities of color is critical to overcoming health disparities. Inside the hospital, the HAN systems signing the statement also commit to implementing policy changes that promote equity and opportunity; improving primary and specialty care; helping their communities overcome chronic diseases; advocating for investments in improvements to health access, quality, and outcomes; promoting and retaining leaders of color; providing anti-racism and implicit bias training for all staff and administrators; and advocating for funding for programming for social needs, social services, and 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 the collective strengths of our organizations, we will help serve our communities as agents of change,” HAN’s statement proclaims.

The health care systems that have signed onto this statement are: Advocate Aurora Health, Alameda Health System, AMITA Health, Baystate Health, BJC HealthCare, Bon Secours Mercy Health, Boston Children’s Hospital, Boston Medical Center, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, ChristianaCare, Cleveland Clinic, CommonSpirit Health, Cone Health, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health, Denver Health, Einstein Healthcare Network, Franciscan Missionaries Of Our Lady Health System, Gundersen Health System, Kaiser Permanente, Lurie Children’s, M Health Fairview, Maimonides Medical Center, Mass General Brigham, Northwell Health, ProMedica, Providence St. Joseph Health, Rush University Medical Center, RWJBarnabas Health, San Mateo County Health, Seattle Children’s, Spectrum Health, The MetroHealth System, Trinity Health, UC San Francisco, UMass Memorial Health, University Hospitals, University of Utah Health, VCU Health, and Yale New Haven Health.

Submitted by Northwell Health System

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