The conversation about racism in the United States may have started with police brutality, but since then it has branched out to everything from education and hiring practices to incarceration and healthcare.
There have always been health disparities in the country that fall along racial lines, but in the face of COVID-19, the gap in medical care impacting people of color has only increased. Black Americans, compared with all other racial and ethnic groups, are more likely to contract, be hospitalized for, and die from COVID-19.
Knowing this, it is vital that healthcare communicators evaluate their role in combating racism in healthcare.
- Do the Research: As experts in our field, we know more than how to get a press release in front of the right audience. We also understand the ins and outs of the healthcare world – including where it struggles and how it must change. Communicators must strive to remain informed so that we can, in turn, advise appropriately.
- Encourage Diversity: Review the materials being produced, surveys conducted, data gathered, hiring practices enacted, etc. to not only ensure that diversity and inclusivity remains top of mind across the board, but also that resources and solutions are not tailored to one specific demographic alone.
- Be Deliberate: Words are important, and they can convey so much more than a dictionary definition. It’s the difference between a statement referencing “everything going on” vs. “protests for racial justice” or saying George Floyd “passed” as opposed to saying he was murdered. Words carry weight and in the world of healthcare, where consequences are quite literally life and death, they are that much heavier.
As healthcare communicators, our function is not merely to help put organizations in the best light, but to use our expertise as media mavens and public perspective aficionados to encourage those we advise to be better than they were yesterday. For many in healthcare, that means acknowledging systemic injustices and doing our part to right them.
The first step is to acknowledge that we, healthcare communicators, have an obligation to combat racism and, from there, to empower one another to act upon it.