In times of uncertainty, I like to turn to the words and guidance of others. The Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr once said, “I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant.” This past year I have often had a hard time believing in this sentiment. That the better world Dr. King describes is even possible. I think about the continued prevalence of racism, yes among our health care system as well as all other sectors, of homophobia, of hate for people because of who they are.
I think about the power of bringing together different types of people in order to create systems and societies capable of reflection, learning, and growth. I believe this is needed to build Dr. King’s better world. That we need to talk about “what happened to you” throughout the year, not just focus on disparities during black history month, or LGBT pride month, women’s history month. Our words, our attitudes matter and have a real impact on patient care, outcomes, and simple survival. I have, as a person, had a specific experience that is always going to be different from any other person’s experience. We are all deserving of life and of a high-quality life.
I am especially proud of our Obstetric Care Outcomes Assessment Program (Ob COAP) comparison by race of hospital readmission within 30 days of discharge, blood transfusion of the person who gave birth, and NICU level of care. These outcomes matter, these parents and children matter, and our data is the so valuable in being able to see these differences.
I am also proud of last week’s Washington Patient Safety Coalition (WPSC) safe table on the impact of stigma and bias on clinical care. Conversation focused on wanting to make meaningful change within our organizations and the need to move away from performative activism after the summer protests. When we cannot see race, we cannot see patterns.
I encourage all of you to watch our Bree Collaborative webinars on Identifying Health Disparities, Striving for Health Equity and Implicit Bias and Racial Inequities in Health Care. Ask your leadership if your delivery system is part of Ob COAP or if your organization is part of the WPSC. Contact me to learn more. If we talk the talk without walking the talk we will never realize the world described by Dr. King’s challenge.
Ginny Weir, MPH
Interim CEO, Foundation for Health Care Quality