Today is World Health Day – an annual celebration led by the World Health Organization (WHO) to create awareness about a global health issue that need our attention. In the past, this has included topics such as mental health, maternal and child care as well as climate change.
This year, the World Health Day theme is “building a fairer, healthier world for everyone.”
Building a healthier, more equitable world is a top priority for our ministry. Earlier this year, we joined the Catholic Health Association of the United States (CHA) and 22 of the nation’s largest Catholic Health Systems in a new initiative to confront racism by achieving health equity.
Recognizing that racism is against the core values of Catholic social teaching along with its impact on health equity, we joined this movement to promote the common good and seek justice. By being actively anti-racist and accountable, our hope is these efforts will create positive change in the communities we serve.
This initiative has four key focus areas for those that signed the pledge:
- Act for COVID-19 equity: 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. Work for prioritization of vaccinations for those individuals and families at higher risk — elder populations and communities of color, including Native American communities.
- Enact change across our own health systems: Examine how 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.
- Advocate for improved health outcomes for minority communities and populations: 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.
- Strengthen trust with minority communities: Continue to foster, strengthen and sustain authentic relationships based on mutually agreed goals to better understand the unique needs of their communities.
“We are committed to extending the compassionate ministry of Jesus and bringing good help to those in need, especially those who are poor, dying and underserved. It is imperative that together, we address health disparities, especially in underserved communities,” says John Starcher, president and CEO, Bon Secours Mercy Health. “Providing greater access to high-quality health care regardless of race, economic status or other social factors is core to our mission. The time for health equity is now, and we stand with CHA in its work to care for others as Jesus would.”
In signing this pledge, our ministry and other Catholic health care leaders recognize our unique position to bring about overdue change to policies and practices that have allowed systemic racism and health disparities to continue in our country.
Today, on World Health Day, as well as every day, we are committed to “building a fairer, healthier world for everyone” by combatting health inequities across the communities we serve.