Springfield is not unlike many communities across the country, struggling to make sense out of what has happened to those impacted by racial inequality and injustice — and how we will pull together to move forward, to heal and to learn.
Mercy Health has long valued human dignity, diversity and inclusion as ministry priorities. Our Mission calls us to improve the health and well-being of our communities and bring good help to those in need. The events of the past weeks must deepen our shared commitment to protect, heal and support the most vulnerable among us, which includes those affected by racial inequality and its associated health disparities, poorer health outcomes and higher rates of mortality and morbidity. Where some seek to divide, we must join together to support our patients, families, associates and providers – serving all.
After seeing firsthand the appreciation for human dignity and life of which Springfield is capable, it is abundantly clear that changing the narrative about racial injustice means that we all — as a health care ministry, a city, a region, a nation and the world, stand together to set a new standard for how we should live. We ask organizations to re-examine their values to ensure they help contribute to the healing of racism in our time. Our founding Sisters have always valued human dignity for all, and while much has been accomplished, there is still much to do.
Here’s what Mercy Health – Springfield and its parent organization Bon Secours Mercy Health are doing to address racial inequality:
-Healthcare Anchor Network Commitment – In November 2019, Bon Secours Mercy Health (BSMH) was one of several leading health systems announcing its commitment to the Healthcare Anchor Network, a growing collaboration of health care systems building more inclusive and sustainable local economies. BSMH will leverage institutional resources to help address the economic, racial and environmental disparities that impact community health outcomes. Our commitment includes local efforts to enhance inclusive hiring practices, expand inclusive sourcing opportunities, and create new and support existing place-based investments, all leveraging local partnerships to create equitable, economic impact in the communities we serve.
-Applying an equity lens to our Community Health Needs Assessments (CHNA) and Implementation Plans (CHIP) – For the 2019-2022 round of CHNA and CHIP planning, Mercy Health – Springfield in collaboration with Clark County Combined Health District and Champaign County Health Department has prioritized health equity and the social determinants of health as areas of focus, drawing attention not only to identified health needs but also to the populations and places adversely impacted by these issues. These plans create the framework for how our communities will strategically collaborate and direct resources to programs and partnerships that successfully address the social dynamics and disparities that impact poor health outcomes. Areas of focus including housing, transportation and improvements in health equity, wellness outcomes and social determinants of health
-Community Health strategic leadership support of Start Strong, Clark County – Infant Mortality Coalition – During this current Community Health Needs Assessment and Implementation Plan, Clark and Champaign Counties identified Infant Mortality as a top health need. Mercy Health is collaborating with Clark County Combined Health District, Family & Children First Council, Rocking Horse, Pregnancy Resource Clinic, Care Source and others to create Start Strong Clark County, an infant mortality coalition in an effort to reduce infant mortality and address the pervasive health disparity in birth outcomes between Black and White families. Start Strong, Clark County will focus on providing evidence-based services that aid in the reduction of overall preterm births from 11.79% to 10.25%, reducing the amount of sleep-related deaths to zero and raising awareness of the importance of preconception and first trimester health.
-Community Health strategic leadership support of Clark County Local Foods Council – The Clark County Local Foods Council explores the many connections food brings us from advocacy, to education, marketing, groceries to gardening and beyond to local growers and food-related businesses. With the loss of the S. Limestone Kroger store, we recognize a major access issue to healthy local food and the existence of food deserts in our community. We acknowledge how the loss of access to this store disproportionally affected people of color. We are working actively with partners including Jefferson Street Oasis, Promise Neighborhood and OSU extension to expand the opportunities and support for community gardens, while also providing financial support to Second Harvest Food Bank to provide greater access to the counties we serve. We are working with the City of Springfield, Clark County Combined Health District and others to find more, new, creative solutions to bring greater access and availability of healthy food, especially those on the south end of Springfield, affected adversely by the Kroger store closure.
Additionally, the Mercy Health Foundation Clark & Champaign Counties is deeply committed to pursuing philanthropic partnerships, including grant opportunities, to support and advance our healthcare ministry’s equality and equity initiatives.
In recent years, our Foundation has worked with Sisters United for Prevention, a group of 12 Black women who focus on education and advocacy around cancer in the Black community. Our Foundation assists the group with an annual event that is educational, inspiring and raises funds to provide support for people of color receiving cancer treatment. The group has contributed thousands of dollars in recent years to support those in need with rent, groceries, clothing and transportation.
The Foundation and leadership have started meeting with Black ministers in Clark County to discuss health care, learn how we can work more closely and note concerns and feedback from their parishioners. We hope to resume these conversations soon.
We commit to continuing to address racial inequality in health care and call upon our Divine Physician to heal the wounds of racism in our hearts and throughout our land.
Adam Groshans is the market president of Mercy Health - Springfield, part of Bon Secours Mercy Health.