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Reflecting on Health Equity for Juneteenth

June 19, 2023

On Juneteenth, HAP recognizes that bias and structural racism—both within health care and the larger community—are unacceptable and serious threats to Pennsylvanians’ health. HAP also emphasizes the importance of ongoing work within the hospital community to advance health equity.

Evidence overwhelmingly points to bias and racism as the cause of health inequities throughout the commonwealth and the nation. One study estimates that over a recent 22-year period, Black people in the U.S. experienced more than 1.63 million excess deaths and 80 million years of potential life lost compared to white people. The maternal mortality rate for Black Pennsylvanians is twice as high as for white Pennsylvanians.

“Structural racism continues to disproportionately threaten the health of Black Pennsylvanians; this is unacceptable,” said HAP President and CEO Nicole Stallings. “That’s why HAP and Pennsylvania hospitals are working collaboratively to identify and eliminate racial bias in health care.”

Last year, HAP began its Racial Health Equity Learning Action Network (RHELAN), which brings together Pennsylvania hospitals and health systems to identify and confront systemic inequality and structural racism in health care.

Bias and racism affect health in two main ways. Health care providers’ subconscious bias can unintentionally affect their interactions with and decisions about patients, erode trust between providers and patients, and negatively influence health outcomes. At the same time, structural racism in the community influences many factors that contribute to health such as health care access; air and water quality; housing, food, and income security; and many others. Furthering health equity requires addressing both provider bias and community factors.

HAP’s RHELAN is based on the idea that Pennsylvania hospitals make meaningful change faster by working together. The collaborative invites hospitals to learn from one another as they use data and evidence-based interventions that confront health inequities in the same manner that hospital teams address other threats to the quality and safety of care.

Learn more about the RHELAN and how bias and racism affect health online.