Organizations that do not have significant racial and ethnic minority representation in senior leadership are less likely to make racial health inequities a priority.
“Even with the best intentions, without having some sort of real understanding of the challenges individuals from minority communities go through, it’s very difficult to make meaningful change,” said Dr. Eric Rafla-Yuan, chief resident in the University of California at San Diego’s community psychiatry program. “If you did have a good understanding of this you would want to try to include these people in positions of leadership.”
Ascension, a Catholic healthcare system that’s one of the largest in the nation, has formalized its efforts to increase diversity.
“Ethnic and gender diversity are critical to the long-term sustainability of our ministry and something we’re focused on as a national system,” Herb Vallier, executive vice president and chief human resources officer, said in an emailed statement.
“We’ve begun a diversity and inclusion initiative called ABIDE (Appreciation, Belongingness, Inclusivity, Diversity, Equity) with the goal of creating a more diverse and inclusive culture and workforce and a welcoming environment.”
Most of the barriers to progress are rooted in a lack of commitment by top management to recruit, cultivate and promote more people of color to leadership positions. The next level is going from saying that Black lives matter to showing that commitment, said Dr. Robert Winn, director of the Massey Cancer Center at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond. “If Black lives matter, then how does that impact your hiring practices?”
North Carolina-based Novant Health has worked to embed diversity, equity and inclusion within the organization for more than a decade. But in 2015, the health system stepped up its commitment when it became one of more than 700 hospitals that year to sign the American Hospital Association’s pledge to eliminate healthcare disparities.
Since then, Novant has approached diversity more holistically, aiming to change its culture rather than relying on a specially created diversity program to succeed, said Tanya Blackmon, executive vice president and chief diversity, inclusion and equity officer.
“We all know what happens to programs,” Blackmon said. “You have a program and you have money to fund it today but then if there’s no money tomorrow you stop the program.”
Novant’s strategy has involved tying its work toward improving racial diversity to the organization’s business imperatives. Since 2006, the health system has invested $1 billion in initiatives promoting economic development in underserved communities by purchasing goods and services from women- and minority-owned businesses.