As our society wrestles with the issue of racism and its effects in a number of areas, one that should have the attention of EHS professionals is the health implications.
The American Medical Association is quite clear on its thoughts. “The AMA recognizes that racism negatively impacts and exacerbates health inequities among historically marginalized communities. Without systemic and structural-level change, health inequities will continue to exist, and the overall health of the nation will suffer,” said AMA Board Member Willarda V. Edwards, MD, in a statement on Nov. 16. 2020.
The group feels that publicly addressing the situation is imperative to devising a solution. “Declaring racism as an urgent public health threat is a step in the right direction toward advancing equity in medicine and public health while creating pathways for truth, healing, and reconciliation,” Edwards says.
The American Society of Safety Professionals (ASSP) in July, announced its intentions to part of the solution. The group created a task force that will present an action plan.
“Achieving widespread safety and equity requires a deep-seated commitment, and we have embarked on a journey to transform our culture by bringing together people with a wide range of backgrounds and perspectives,” ASSP President Deborah Roy, M.P.H., RN said in a statement. “We must do more to challenge long-held assumptions and better understand how unconscious bias can influence decisions.”
The key to solving this issue is truly hearing what diverse communities are saying. Roy explains it well. “We can do more to honor our members’ deep insights and experiences by establishing trust, compassion and hope at every level of our organization,” said Roy. “It’s not about replacing the voices of ASSP, but elevating the voices that are not being heard.”
What can EHS professionals do? First, take a hard look at the structure of your healthcare offerings and see if there are any barriers to healthcare for any segments of your population. Next, gather data across your organization as that can reveal different healthcare treatments and options. And then talk to employees to discover their experience with the healthcare system.
But above all, there must be a willingness to recognize the problem.
“To fight racism and discrimination, we all need to recognize, name, and understand these attitudes and actions,” said Monique Tello, M.D. in an article from the Harvard Medical School. “ We need to be open to identifying and controlling our own implicit biases. We need to be able to manage overt bigotry safely, learn from it, and educate others. These themes need to be a part of medical education, as well as institutional policy. We need to practice and model tolerance, respect, open-mindedness, and peace for each other.”