Catholic Health Care Systems Make Comprehensive Commitment to Confronting Racism by Achieving Health Equity

February 4, 2021 12:30 PM EST

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WASHINGTON, Feb. 4, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- The Catholic Health Association of the United States (CHA) today launched a membership-driven initiative to confront racism by achieving health equity.  

Twenty-three of the nation's largest Catholic health care systems have already pledged their commitment to confronting systemic racism by prioritizing equity in response to COVID-19; enacting change across their own health care systems by examining and changing hiring, promotion and retention practices to ensure diversity and inclusion; forming stronger partnerships with communities of color to improve health outcomes; and leveraging their united and powerful voice to advocate for policy changes that address the root causes of racism and social injustice.

"COVID-19's greater impact on communities of color and the police killings of George Floyd and others demonstrate the urgent need to address the devastating impact racism has on the health and well-being of individuals and communities," said Sr. Mary Haddad, RSM, CHA president and CEO. "We in the Catholic health ministry, responding to the Gospel mandate for justice, are called to renew our commitment to eliminate the racial inequities in our communities and to acknowledge and confront our own shortcomings so that we can become agents of healing and positive change."

Collectively, the Catholic health organizations who have signed the Catholic Health Association of the United States' (CHA) Confronting Racism by Achieving Health Equity pledge employ nearly a half million people across 46 states and the District of Columbia and care for almost four million patients annually (see list below).   

Recognizing that racism is an affront to the core values of Catholic social teaching, the CHA board of trustees developed the pledge and asked CHA members to join in solidarity to promote the common good and seek justice by being actively anti-racist and accountable in effecting positive change in the communities we serve. 

Four focus areas

  • Act for COVID-19 equity: Members commit to ensuring that testing for COVID-19 is available and accessible in minority communities and that new treatments are distributed and used equitably as they become available. Members will also work for prioritization of vaccinations for those individuals and families at higher risk — especially elder populations and communities of color, including indigenous communities. For example, CommonSpirit Health is partnering with the Morehouse School of Medicine to develop and train more culturally competent providers. The 10-year, $100 million initiative will enable the Morehouse School of Medicine to expand opportunities for Black and other underrepresented physicians and will help improve COVID-19 testing, care delivery, and vaccine allocation directed toward the most vulnerable populations.

"We believe that everyone has the right to be healthy," said Lloyd H. Dean, president and CEO of CommonSpirit Health. "Health equity is impacted by factors inside and outside of our facilities – from access to housing, food and transportation to culturally competent clinicians who have common lived experience. It's time for us to come together to solve these problems proactively and holistically."

  • Enact change across our own health systems: Members are examining how their organizations recruit, hire, promote and retain employees; how they conduct business operations, including visible diversity and inclusivity at the decision, leadership and governance levels; and how they incentivize and hold our leaders accountable. Examples include Hospital Sisters Health System's creation of a diversity council and CHRISTUS Health's formation of a minority executive fellowship program.

"Catholic health care providers have long been a beacon of hope for our communities," said Ernie Sadau, president and CEO of CHRISTUS Health. "Yet again, we are called to lead by example, to take an active role in health equity within the walls of our health care ministries. We understand that equity is not just something we do 'out there.' It starts 'in here.' That's why, at CHRISTUS, health equity has been one of the key focuses of our organization since our founding and a vital part of our strategic plan for many years, as we work with our communities to lead the way on racial justice. This is why we are participating in CHA's Health Equity pledge, and I'm proud to be part of a health ministry that is working so hard to achieve health equity and confront racial injustice."

  • Advocate for improved health outcomes for minority communities and populations: Members agree to promote and improve the delivery of culturally competent care and oppose policies that exacerbate or perpetuate economic and social inequities, including such issues as education, housing and criminal justice reform. For example, Trinity New England is enhancing local early education and care sites through nutrition and physical activity programs, and pushing for policies for improved school nutrition, complete streets infrastructure, and tobacco use prevention.

"As a Catholic health ministry with a mission rooted in love, respect, justice and compassion, we are called to act and speak in a manner reflecting our reverence for the dignity and diversity of life," said Joseph R. Impicciche, JD, MHA, president and CEO of Ascension. "This sacred calling and responsibility also demand that we advocate for the marginalized and condemn all forms of racism, discrimination and injustice as we work together to ensure all individuals are treated justly and respectfully, with equal access to opportunities and resources."

  • Strengthen trust with minority communities: Members will continue to foster, strengthen and sustain authentic relationships based on mutually agreed goals to better understand the unique needs of their communities. Examples include Ascension's creation of a dedicated emergency department to serve higher risk obstetrics patients in Milwaukee and multiple systems' work with Catholic Charities USA on its Healthy Housing Initiative (HHI), which aims to support and reduce the chronically homeless population.

Catholic health care leaders who have signed the pledge recognize that collectively they are in a unique position to bring about overdue change to policies and practices that have allowed systemic racism and health disparities to continue in the United States. To hold itself and its members accountable, CHA intends to provide updates on the commitment progress annually and will focus on diversity, equity and inclusion during its annual member meeting, taking place June 13-14, 2021.

Sr. Haddad, Mr. Dean, and Mr. Sadau joined Dr. Duperval-Brownlee, senior vice president and chief community impact officer at Ascension, in announcing the pledge commitment during a Feb. 4, 2021 media briefing, which can be viewed here. To learn more about this initiative visit

The 23 Catholic health care organizations that have signed the pledge are:

AscensionAvera HealthBenedictine Bon Secours Mercy HealthCHRISTUS HealthCommonSpirit HealthCovenant HealthElizabeth Seton Children'sFranciscan Missionaries of Our Lady Health System, Inc.Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity Sponsored Ministries, Inc.Holy Redeemer Health SystemHospital Sisters Health SystemMercyMercy Health Services, Inc.MercyOnePeace Care St. Ann'sPeaceHealthProvidence St. Joseph HealthSCL HealthSisters of Charity Health SystemSMP Health SystemSSM HealthTrinity Health

The Catholic Health Association of the United States is the national leadership organization of the Catholic health ministry, representing the largest nonprofit provider of health care services in the nation.

  • 1 in 7 patients in the U.S. is cared for in a Catholic hospital each day.
  • Catholic health care, which includes more than 2,200 hospitals, nursing homes, long-term care facilities, systems, sponsors, and related organizations, serves the full continuum of health care across our nation.

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SOURCE Catholic Health Association

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