We cannot address socioeconomic factors that are barriers to healthcare access—like trust in healthcare providers, income, transportation, education and housing—without acknowledging that systemic racism has caused these issues to be more prevalent in communities of color. If we are truly committed to the health of our patients and neighbors, we must work together to ensure that no one is overlooked, dismissed or underserved simply because of the color of their skin.
With the understanding that no one individual or institution can do this alone, we have committed to listening to our neighbors of color and implementing specific initiatives that will help to eradicate all forms of discrimination in our organizations. At the same time, we will partner with others in the community to address the social injustice and systemic racism that contribute to disparity of care across our five-county region.
We know that tackling issues of discrimination in our communities, which have existed for decades, is not work that can be done overnight or in a vacuum. But we can no longer wait for someone else to solve this problem of injustice; true change requires the work of ALL of us.
Tower Health commits to:
- Re-examining policies and procedures and making changes, with an equity lens, that promote equality, opportunity and inclusion for all.
- Improving access to primary and specialty care for people in underserved communities.
- Building trust through community partnerships with the goal of addressing chronic conditions that impact communities of color.
- Advocating for investments that create innovative solutions to improve access, and provide safe, high-quality health outcomes for all communities in Pennsylvania.
- Hiring and promoting leaders of color and increasing diversity in governance.
- Renewing and expanding each organization’s commitment to providing anti-racism, and implicit/unconscious bias training for all staff, volunteers and physicians.
- Bridging relations between law enforcement by participating in events aimed at encouraging conversations improving relations and creating trust.
- Increasing the collection and use of race, ethnicity, language preference and other sociodemographic data to identify and address health disparities.
To date, Tower Health leaders have created action items in recognition and response to the needs of our community at large. Diversity and Inclusion Councils have been formed at every hospital in our network and their missions are tailored to each hospital's unique needs. We are examining our recruitment, hiring and retention of staff at every level, because it should reflect our communities at large. We are actively exploring training resources and look forward to offering those opportunities to employees in 2021.
An antidiscrimination policy has been put into effect to protect our workers and trainees. A monthly speaker’s series is conducted to explore timely and relevant issues. For example: Transgender Healthcare, Implicit Bias, Managing a Multigenerational Workforce, etc. Exploring such topics will allow for open and honest dialogue.
These efforts will take time and perseverance but will create lasting change for the benefit of every person we care for, and every trainee that we teach. Our collective commitment activates a social contract to elevate our shared responsibility to provide high-quality, safe human care to all.
*This statement is partially based on one signed by Tower Health and other major healthcare systems in southeastern Pennsylvania in the summer of 2020. [Click here to read the entire pledge.] We are also grateful to the residents, fellows, and staff at Tower Health for their contributions to the development of this statement and their commitment to this work.