CEO Message

A Call to Commitment on Longstanding Health Equity Challenges

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Dr. Batchlor, CEO of MLK Community Healthcare and MLK Community Hospital in South Los Angeles, a physician, and a CHA board member, offers a glimpse into the personal struggle she is facing in getting her own mother vaccinated against COVID-19. 

From her writing: “Her excuses vary. One day she’ll insist, ‘I don’t know what’s in it,’ even though I’ve explained it to her in detail. Another day: ‘I already have too many medications in my body,’ or ‘I’m just not comfortable with it.’ What she hasn’t said, but what I think is really the point: She doesn’t trust the medical system. And if you don’t trust a system, you don’t trust what the system is trying to do.” 

It’s that last point that should strike home for all of us: “If you don’t trust a system, you don’t trust what the system is trying to do.” 

Dr. Batchlor’s mother is not alone. Millions of people in California, especially people of color, women, LGBTQ, poor, and other disenfranchised people mistrust their health care system — for different reasons.  

It’s at once personal and systemic. Dr. Batchlor shares an anecdote about her mother’s trip to an emergency department for a broken arm. The staff at the time did not take sufficient actions to control her pain and she lost consciousness. 

“Every trip to the hospital since then — and there have been many — has been fraught with anxiety on top of needless discomfort and pain. Why? Because she is a Black woman? The stress of being Black in America is that you don’t know.” 

Over the past several decades, hospitals, health systems, trade associations, independent organizations, governmental bodies, and more have begun to peck away at the edges of this problem — working to diversify staff leadership and governance, educating the same about inclusiveness, building improvement collaboratives for the resulting quality and outcome disparities, and more.  

But as a system, we still fall short on equitable results. I join Dr. Batchlor in her clarion call: “Demand that Congress repair and realign our separate and unequal systems of health care.” 

As long as we have an underfunded Medi-Cal system on which many people, communities, health providers and facilities must rely, we won’t close the gaps that inequitable system creates.  

Earlier this week, the CHA board, during a discussion of priorities for 2022, also called attention to health equity. Your CHA team is working now on ways we can address state and federal system inequities and how we can help you make progress in your community.  

The takeaway from Dr. Batchlor’s piece and the failure to date to make significant headway on this issue is that we must change ourselves and the system, lest we remain in the place that Dr. Batchlor fears for her mother: “My mom remains unconvinced. I hoped she would get the shots at my hospital, reassured by the conduct and presence of Black doctors and nurses. But she’s still not ready. It will take more than one experience to overcome her deep distrust that our medical system works in her best interest. She may never get there.”