Minnesota health care leaders working together on COVID-19 response, ending systemic racism

Kevin Doran
Updated: December 21, 2020 10:18 PM
Created: December 21, 2020 05:11 PM

One of the top priorities of Minnesota health care executives is making sure the new coronavirus vaccines are distributed fairly, regardless of race, color, sex, age or economic status.
     
The pandemic and unrest in Minneapolis and St. Paul after the death of George Floyd are shining a light on what they admit is systemic racism in the health care system.
    
After months of talking with each other and making uncomfortable self-assessments of how they do business, 30 Minnesota companies have signed a commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion.

Dr. Penny Wheeler, CEO of Allina Health, and Dr. David Herman, CEO of Essentia Health, are two of the executives at larger companies promising to cooperate more to eliminate systemic racism and its negative impact on health and well-being.

"David and I and all the other health system leaders are coming together, multiple times a week, often to make sure we can try to care for the community collectively," Wheeler said.

"There are tremendous disparities in health care in the United States," Herman said. "So we have to take a look at that whole broader picture of that and say where does this start? It's about food, it's about education, and it's about security. All those things affect our health. We can start those conversations within the community and help the rest of the community right alongside of us, blaze the path."  

"You know these are difficult conversations and difficult things to accomplish," Wheeler said. "But if we're to use what is a darker time in our history to make it far brighter in the future, then we have to be relentless in our pursuit of just that and not get tired even through challenges and difficult conversations and the like."

Below is a partial statement from the health care leaders: 

In recognizing our roles as providers of care, employers, purchasers, and community partners, we commit to: 
•    Re-examine our organizational policies with an equity lens and make any policy changes needed to promote equity and opportunity. 
•    Seek to understand different perspectives, experiences and appropriately adapt our behaviors to improve culturally responsive care. 
•    Work to eliminate decisions that negatively impact underrepresented and underserved groups. 
•    Improve access to and consumer experience for all needed care services- primary, specialty care, and hospital care. 
•    Partner with policymakers, employers, and community advocates to remove the economic barriers to health equity. 
•    Continue to build pathways that support our patients in addressing their health-related social needs and provide connections to community resources. 
•    Commit to hiring locally and promoting Black, Indigenous, people of color and other underrepresented and underserved people into leadership roles. We commit to be employers that hire, develop, retain and support a diverse workforce. 
•    Renew and expand our organizations' commitment to providing anti-racism and implicit bias training for all leaders and staff. 
•    Advocate for increased funding for social needs, social services and programs that promote social justice. 
•    Advocate for investments that create innovative solutions to achieve enduring improvements in access, quality and health outcomes for the communities we serve. 
•    Promote the inclusion of businesses owned by Black, Indigenous, people of color and other underrepresented and underserved people when purchasing goods or services. 
•    Review any investment portfolio, assuring that we are invested in funds which align to our equity principles and values. 
  
"We recognize that humility, openness and determination will be required for long-lasting progress," said Dr. Claire Neely, President and CEO of the Institute for Clinical Systems Improvement (ICSI). "Part of what makes the Minnesota health care sector so special is our culture of collaboration and demonstrated ability to achieve progress on issues of critical importance to the communities we serve."
 
The 30 organizations who have adopted the guiding principles and committed to addressing racial disparities and inequities are: 
 
Allina Health, Allina Health Aetna, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota, CentraCare, Children's Minnesota, CCM Health, Entira, Essentia Health, Gillette Children's Specialty Healthcare, HealthPartners, Hennepin Healthcare, Institute for Clinical Systems Improvement (ICSI), Medica, M Health Fairview, Minnesota Association of Community Health Centers, Minnesota Community Care, Minnesota Medical Association, MN Council of Health Plans, Minnesota Community Measurement, Natalis Counseling & Psychology Solutions, North Memorial Health, Nura Precision Pain Clinic, Planned Parenthood, Portico Healthnet, PrairieCare, PreferredOne, Southside Community Health Services, Stratis, UCare and University of Minnesota Physicians. 


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