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Utah's health care systems fight systemic racism

Posted at 9:44 PM, Jan 12, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-12 23:46:30-05

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah’s major health systems are teaming up to fight the injustices caused by systemic racism.

Intermountain Healthcare, University of Utah Health, Steward Healthcare and Mountain Star Healthcare are each taking steps to overcome the disparities they believe are causing a crisis in health care.

“2020 was a tough year in a lot of ways,” said Dr. Marc Harrison, president and CEO of Intermountain Healthcare. “We realized racism is affecting the health and wellbeing of the people we are meant to serve and the people we work with."

Utah’s COVID-19 statistics offer an example into some of the inequities.

Despite making up roughly 14 percent of Utah’s population, the Hispanic/Latino community accounts for nearly 22 percent of all COVID-19 cases in the state.

The statistics also show the COVID-19 mortality rates for Utah’s Native American and Pacific Islander communities are more than double the rate in the White community.

“There is nothing in particular about the color of person’s skin or the language they speak at home that makes them at risk for COVID,” Dr. Harrison said. “It’s how do they live? What resources do they have?”

The healthcare systems are vowing to increase their outreach to people of color, promote diversity among hospital staff and leadership and listen closely to the concerns of patients.

“We believe that Black lives matter,” said Dr. Michael Good, the dean of the University of Utah School of Medicine. “We recognize racism as a public health crisis. We believe systemic anti-Black racism is one of the major causes of health disparities that we observe in our society.”

As they look to the future, these major health systems say they are committed to eliminating those disparities and inequities that have plagued minority communities. They acknowledge the importance of aggressively working to vaccinate and protect people of color from COVID-19.

“It’s about getting the right outcomes and getting the same good outcomes for all people regardless of what they look like, what language they speak and where in town they live,” Dr. Harrison said.