Reducing health disparities and racial injustice

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Foundations of health | Health equity

Health care has been inequitable for generations. At Providence, we are taking steps to advance health equity by dismantling systemic policies and processes that have historically disadvantaged certain populations and have led to significant health inequities.

Together, we are putting in the personal and institutional work needed to live our values, speak up against injustice and prevent further harm. One way we are doing this is through a $50 million investment over five years to reduce health disparities and achieve health equity. We are creating robust partnerships with our communities, building needed infrastructure, ensuring caregivers reflect the demographics of the people we serve, and embedding health equity as a strategic priority across the organization.

During 2021, Providence invested more than $10 million of our total health equity commitment and served 562,000 individuals, including families.

Four Providence caregivers agree that health equity moves at the speed of trust.

Northern California: Improving the birth experience for Native Americans

The Better Birthing Project at Providence St. Joseph Hospital in Humboldt County was created to strengthen relationships and increase trust between the hospital and the Native American communities it serves, including the Karuk, Hupa, Tolowa, Wiyot, and Yurok Tribes. Caregivers at Providence St. Joseph Hospital recognized a disconnect between the local Native American population and the hospital’s ability to provide culturally responsive care. A group of the hospital’s caregivers decided to act and dispel biases while building knowledge and respect for history and tradition.

In 2021, this team of caregivers conducted research and data collection to understand the birth experience of Native American patients at the hospital. This work included stakeholder mapping, extensive lived-experience interviews, and the creation of a design partnership team comprising Providence caregivers and representatives from the Native American community. A series of patient-centered interventions are currently being piloted to find opportunities to better support Indigenous patients during their birth experience.

A big part of creating health equity is leading by listening to our patients and communities. 

In 2021, the hospital collaborated with local Native communities to advocate for important legislative support, resulting in the introduction of AB 2176. The bill increases the time for Native American families to register the birth of a child, honoring cultural practices.

Puget Sound: Supporting and empowering Black birthing women and people

The Black Birth Empowerment Initiative at Swedish is a curated program designed for those who identify as Black or African American. Its purpose is to center and uplift the Black birth experience by providing clients the option to work with culturally competent, trained doulas. BBEI caregivers work to reduce health disparities in the Black community including prenatal and postpartum complications and higher rates of stillbirths and pregnancy mortality.

According to Sauleiha Akangbe, certified birth doula and manager, Birth Equity and Women’s Health for the Swedish doula program, BBEI was created in direct response to concerns heard from the community. “The doula program, with support from leadership, prioritizes the Black doula experience and respects the importance of empowering and honoring the Black birthing experience,” says Akangbe.

“I’m hoping with training and education, I will be able to bring the support a laboring family needs when it matters the most.” - Jeleine Osario Smith, 2021 recipient, Doula Diversity Scholarship

The program’s Doula Diversity Scholarship is a key resource for aspiring doulas of color and it helps advance the initiative’s goals. The scholarship covers the cost of doula training and certification, a lending library, and shadowing opportunities. In 2021, the program received community benefit support from Swedish to provide scholarships to four new doulas who will work in the community. Jeleine Osario Smith, a 2021 scholarship recipient says, “I’m hoping with training and education, I will be able to bring the support a laboring family needs when it matters the most.”

Puget Sound and Oregon: Meeting the needs of our diverse elderly communities

Providence ElderPlace, our PACE program (Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly), is designed to keep elderly adults as healthy and active as possible by providing comprehensive social services and health care. In 2021, Providence made concerted efforts in two regions, Oregon and Puget Sound, to increase PACE participation among communities of color.

In King County, Washington, the Providence ElderPlace team worked to better connect with the Asian American and Pacific Islander populations by direct outreach through tables and presentations at community events and by initiating a partnership with King County Immigrant and Refugee Commission.

Notably, Providence ElderPlace partnered with Seattle-based radio station, Voice of South Pacific, to develop a radio broadcast to promote the program among elderly AAPI listeners. One person who learned about the program through the radio broadcast was eager to share his positive care experience with his church group after his initial meeting with the Providence ElderPlace team.

Serving the needs of the Latinx and Hispanic communities was a key focus for the Providence ElderPlace team in Oregon, including increasing awareness of the program and building trust with community members by breaking down language barriers.

Across the Oregon region of Providence, the percentage of people of color participating in the PACE program increased from 8 percent to 17 percent in six months.

Providence ElderPlace team members developed a Spanish language informational video, translated program materials, identified and reached out to housing facilities and in-home care agencies with Spanish-speaking staff members, and trained the information and referral specialist team to receive calls in Spanish. In 2021 across the Oregon region of Providence, the percentage of people of color participating in the PACE program increased from 8 percent to 17 percent in six months.

Providence’s health equity commitment means that our family of organizations is working to close the gaps in health access and outcomes, remove historical oppression and ensure that every person has the chance to live their healthiest life. Together, we are working hard to honor the trust placed in us by the many diverse communities of people we serve, and to partner with them to meet evolving needs and provide culturally competent and respectful care.

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