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Utah Hospitals Vow To Fight 'Systemic Racism' In Healthcare, Starting With Their Own Staff

An illustration of a diverse crowd in face masks.
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To fight systemic racism in health care, Utah’s largest hospital systems and the state hospital association say they will add more people of color to their staff and their boards, as well as expand implicit bias training for existing employees.

Leaders of Utah’s largest hospital systems released a joint statement Tuesday speaking out against systemic racism and vowing to do more to fight it.

Two things led Utah’s hospital systems to examine their role in systemic racism, according to Mikelle Moore, senior vice president of Intermountain Healthcare: The summer of Black Lives Matter protests and the unequal impact the COVID-19 pandemic is having on people of color.

For example, the Hispanic community makes up almost 22% COVID-19 cases in Utah but only around 14% of the state’s population.

“I think it really created a call for us to take action,” Moore said. “And to do so at the community level, as opposed to individual organizational levels only.”

Now, 11 hospitals and Utah’s Hospital Association say they will add more people of color to their staff and their boards, as well as expand implicit bias training for existing employees. They also promised to help expand healthcare access and identify and treat chronic health conditions in communities of color.

“We are committed to this issue and to sustaining our efforts to make changes that are needed to help us become [an] anti-racist institution, and [an] anti-racist health system throughout the state of Utah,” said Dr. Michael Good, CEO of University of Utah Health.

A 4-photo collage of the hospital leaders.
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Intermountain Healthcare, MountainStar Healthcare, Steward Healthcare and University of Utah Health announced a new initiative to combat systemic racism in healthcare Tuesday.

The issue of racial disparities in healthcare and health outcomes is not new.

Doctors have been aware of this problem for at least 20 years, and many of the health systems already had some diversity and equity efforts underway. But the hospital leaders said Tuesday they are all committed to doing even more to combat the issue of racism in healthcare.

MountainStar Healthcare, which operates eight hospitals in Utah, has been working on increasing diversity and equity since 2019, according to President Greg Angle. He said they will work to improve care for people of color, recruit more diverse talent, buy more supplies from companies that prioritize diversity, increase diversity on their boards and build new community partnerships.

Intermountain Healthcare, which operates 23 hospitals in Utah, has added a chief equity officer, a physician and a nurse to address equity throughout the system, according to CEO Marc Harrison. It has also hired an ombudsman to address employee claims of racism.

Steward Healthcare, which operates five hospitals in Utah, is working to increase community engagement through advisory groups, according to Chief Medical Officer Arlen Jarrett. He said he also hopes to see more diversity on the hospitals’ boards.

The University of Utah, which also operates five hospitals in Utah, has formed an anti-racism commission for its school of medicine, according to Dr. Good. It has also added a number of new positions dedicated to increasing diversity and inclusion

Kate joined KUER from Austin, Texas. She has a master's degree in journalism from the University of Texas at Austin’s Moody School of Communication. She has been an intern, fellow and reporter at Texas Monthly, the Texas Observer, Quartz, the Texas Standard and Voces, an oral history project. Kate began her public radio career at Austin’s NPR station, KUT, as a part-time reporter. She served as a corps member of Report For America, a public service program that partners with local newsrooms to bring reporters to undercovered areas across the country.
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