Trinity Health, Providence turn pledge to address racism, disparities into action

July 1, 2022


INDIANAPOLIS — Trinity Health is ensuring that its pledge to combat racism and end health care disparities isn't just a checked box, said LaRonda Chastang, the system's vice president for diversity, equity and inclusion.

"We have put not only energy and effort but resources behind activities to help move the needle internally as well as externally in the communities that we serve," Chastang said.

Chastang was one of two speakers in a session at the 2022 Catholic Health Assembly here who discussed how their systems have translated into action their adoption of CHA's We Are Called pledge. The pledge commits its signatories to confront racism by achieving health equity in their delivery of COVID-19 care, by putting their own houses in order, developing just relationships with their communities and advocating to end health disparities and systemic racism.

Trinity Health publicly declared that racism is a public health crisis and put its statement and related policies in writing to support internal and external advocacy campaigns on the topic. The system reviewed its human resources policies and practices to reinforce and promote equity. For example, the dress code policy was updated to ensure accommodations for religious dress, facial hair and natural hair styles. Trinity Health requires all vice presidents and above to complete anti-racism training and all staff to take a cultural proficiency course. Trinity Health also committed to increasing its spend with women- and minority-owned suppliers.

Nicholas Kockler, vice president for system ethics services at Providence St. Joseph Health, discussed the road map the Providence Center for Health Care Ethics developed for ethicists and others to translate the goal of achieving racial justice to an operational strategy. That strategy centers on six commitments, including being "allies for social justice," shining light on injustices and weaving anti-racist principles and pedagogy into educational programming.

"We also engage in continuous quality improvement in our ethics consultation practices, both to emphasize inclusion in process and equity in outcomes," Kockler said.

Olga M. Segura, a freelance writer and opinion editor at National Catholic Reporter and the author of Birth of A Movement: Black Lives Matter and the Catholic Church, moderated the discussion. She said that conversations about racism can be discomforting for people.

Chastang said Trinity Health is mindful of that sensitivity. When staff are reluctant to engage in conversations about race, instead of rushing to judgment, she said leaders are encouraged to listen to "understand their why and to share the reason why we are engaged in this meaningful work."

For those whose own experiences of being victimized are triggered by the content of training on racism or cultural sensitivity, Chastang said Trinity Health makes sure they have an opportunity for self-care.

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