President and CEO
American Hospital Association
June 1, 2020
The senseless killing of an unarmed black man in Minneapolis and the protests that are occurring in cities across the country have shaken our nation to its core. This most recent tragedy has rightly raised issues of racism and unequal treatment by law enforcement, and it has ignited justified frustration and anger that are spilling out to streets across America. Clearly, the police officers responsible for committing this crime, as well as the institutions that permit these repeated tragedies to continue to occur must be held accountable. These ongoing protests give voice to deep-seated frustration and hurt and the very real need for systemic change. The killings of George Floyd last week, and Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor earlier this year, among others, are tragic reminders to all Americans of the inequities in our nation.
Raising our voices to speak out against injustice and stand up for our neighbors and communities is an essential part of our democracy. There are peaceful protesters who are trying to bring attention to long-simmering frustration and anger. And there are others whose actions are not reflective of what the protests are truly about. As many protest leaders have shared, the destruction of businesses and attacks on the law enforcement community are not only inexcusable but also undermine the focus on inequities that we all need to address.
As places of healing, hospitals have an important role to play in the wellbeing of their communities. As we’ve seen in the pandemic, communities of color have been disproportionately affected, both in infection rates and economic impact. The AHA’s vision is of a society of healthy communities, where ALL individuals reach their highest potential for health. These words guide what we do every day. To achieve that vision, we must address racial, ethnic and cultural inequities, including those in health care, that are everyday realities for far too many individuals. While progress has been made, we have so much more work to do.
As a nation, we need to take this moment, hold up the mirror and honestly look at ourselves. Then we need to engage in the hard but necessary work to make fundamental changes and address our society’s inequity. We need to develop and implement real solutions that make a genuine difference.
America’s hospitals and health systems condemn racism, bigotry, discrimination and violence of any kind, and we are committed to addressing health care disparities. Our country must right these wrongs so we can build a more just and equitable society where every individual has the opportunity to achieve success.