Chicago Health Providers Take On Systemic Racism

June 22, 2020

Calling systemic racism a public health crisis, three dozen Chicago healthcare organizations – including 18 hospitals and health systems – are pledging to do more to overcome health disparities in minority communities and ensure greater health equity across the city. The organizations issued an open letter to the Chicago community on Friday (June 19), which was Juneteenth, the day commemorating the end of slavery in the U.S.

“Racism results in generational trauma and poverty, while also unquestionably causing higher rates of illness and death in black and brown communities,” the organizers said in the letter. “We have seen — in its rawest form — how the trauma of systemic racism adds to the historical injustices that have disproportionately affected communities of color.”

The organizations committed to take seven action steps to advance their work:

  • Re-examining institutional policies with an equity lens and making any policy changes that promote equity and opportunity.   
  • Improving access to primary and specialty care.   
  • Continuing to focus on helping communities overcome chronic conditions like diabetes, heart disease and asthma.   
  • Continuing to advocate for investments that create innovative solutions to achieve enduring improvements in access, quality and health outcomes for our communities.   
  • Continuing their commitment to hiring locally and promoting leaders of color.   
  • Renewing and expanding each organization’s commitment to providing anti-racism and implicit bias training for physicians, nurses and staff.   
  • Advocating for increased funding for social needs, social services and programs that promote social justice.

According to a joint press release, the organizations began their work through Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s Racial Equity Rapid Response Team, initially joining forces to focus on COVID-19 and its disproportionate impact on minority neighborhoods by making testing more accessible, implementing contact tracing, and increasing distribution of Personal Protective Equipment across the South and West sides. The organizations expanded their work beyond the pandemic in the wake of the deaths of George Floyd, Rayshard Brooks, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and others.