The events of the last several weeks, beginning with the killing of George Floyd, followed by protests and public dialogue have illustrated longstanding issues of inequality and racism in our society. Healthcare is not immune to this. We know that access to healthcare, health status and health outcomes are not equal and at least in part is due to systemic racism. Similarly, the makeup of our healthcare workforce has not and does not adequately reflect the diversity of the communities we serve.
The current COVID-19 pandemic has laid this inequality bare before us. Communities of color and low-income communities are disproportionately suffering the health burdens of COVID: more infections, deaths, hospitalizations, and more severe economic impacts.
We strongly support the aims of the “Code Black: Health Equity for Black Lives” march that is planned for this Sunday, June 14th. We also know that our employees have differing views regarding large public gatherings and the importance of examples we set as health care providers. We support those among us who feel it is important to attend this event and know they will lead by example by wearing a mask, maintaining a safe distance, and practicing handwashing. We also know that many in our foundations support the goals of the march but will not attend because of personal concerns over spreading COVID and concern that large groups of gathered health care workers could be misconstrued by some as minimizing the importance of ongoing social distancing in preventing another COVID-19 surge.
Over the last few weeks we at Brown Physicians Inc. (BPI) and its constituent foundations have been engaged in listening, discussions, and self-reflection on our role in health inequities and how we can address them. While our foundations have each previously committed to diversity and inclusion action plans in coordination with Brown Alpert Medical School, it is clear that we have not done enough. We are committed to doing more. Moving forward, BPI will be listening, reviewing our actions to date, and committing to meaningful change to reduce health disparities and improve health equity for the patients we serve and in Rhode Island more broadly.