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Inclusive Care

By Audrey Gregory

What an Equitable Health System Looks Like

The COVID-19 pandemic has shined the light on racial disparities and the impact on people of color. As we look forward, it is important that we not forget the hard lessons from this painful journey. The COVID-19 virus has disproportionately impacted communities of color throughout our state, especially in the early stages of the pandemic. Last April, the State of Michigan reported that a staggering 40 percent of those who died from COVID-19 were African-American.

This alarming trend led to the establishment of the Michigan Coronavirus Task Force on Racial Disparities by Governor Gretchen Whitmer. I am honored to be part of the task force, which has made great strides in helping to turn the tide, through initiatives such as ensuring more access to COVID-19 testing in underserved communities to address disparities and inequities .

A fully equitable health care system is one that closes the digital divide and leverages innovative technology in health care delivery. It ensures that emerging trends such as remote telehealth services are available to and reach underserved communities, not just affluent ones.

Bridging that gap is also critical as we continue efforts to increase enrollment in health insurance plans by making it easy for everyone to find information about and access options for affordable care.

Equity in care also requires diversity in its practitioners with life experiences that reflect those of the communities it serves. Inside the walls of our hospital systems, physician offices and community clinics, diversity, equity, and inclusion must be intentionally woven into every aspect of each organization’s culture with inclusive paths to leadership positions. In the near future within the state of Michigan, all health care professionals will be required to undergo implicit bias training to help reduce racial and other disparities in the delivery of medical services.

To show support and unity in pursuit of eliminating bias and disparities in health care, the Detroit Medical Center and health systems all across the state signed the Michigan Health Association’s “Pledge to Address Racism and Health Inequities.” It is a sign of our unified commitment to addressing disparities, dismantling institutional racism and achieving health equity.

Moving forward we must remain focused on working to remove barriers to accessing physical and mental health care and mitigate environmental and infrastructure factors that contribute to those barriers. All of us in health care must have an unwavering commitment to creating an environment where everyone has access to safe, compassionate, and high quality care.