Addressing Race in Healthcare Through the Faith and Through the Law
August 6, 2020
by Jonathan Imbody
Christian Medical & Dental Associations (CMDA) has tackled race issues in healthcare proactively, gathering members together for prayer and fasting, webinars, public policy statements, articles, discussions, video presentations and more while pledging to “continue seeking to oppose racism in healthcare and society and pursuing justice in access to healthcare and equitable outcomes.”
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Civil Rights (OCR) is likewise tackling race issues in healthcare, by communicating and enforcing federal law. OCR recently issued the following (excerpted) bulletin of guidance “to ensure that recipients of federal financial assistance understand that they must comply with applicable federal civil rights laws and regulations that prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, color, and national origin in HHS-funded programs during COVID-19:
To help ensure Title VI [of the Civil Rights Act of 1964] compliance during the COVID-19 public health emergency, recipients of federal financial assistance, including state and local agencies, hospitals, and other health care providers, should:
- Adopt policies to prevent and address harassment or other unlawful discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin.
- Ensure – when site selection is determined by a recipient of federal financial assistance from HHS – that Community-Based Testing Sites and Alternate Care Sites are accessible to racial and ethnic minority populations.
- Confirm that existing policies and procedures with respect to COVID-19 related services (including testing) do not exclude or otherwise deny persons on the basis of race, color, or national origin.
- Ensure that individuals from racial and ethnic minority groups are not subjected to excessive wait times, rejected for hospital admissions, or denied access to intensive care units compared to similarly situated non-minority individuals.
- Provide – if part of the program or services offered by the recipient – ambulance service, non-emergency medical transportation, and home health services to all neighborhoods within the recipient’s service area, without regard to race, color, or national origin.
My friend and colleague, HHS OCR Director Roger Severino, observed, “HHS is committed to helping populations hardest hit by COVID-19, including African-American, Native American, and Hispanic communities. This guidance reminds providers that unlawful racial discrimination in healthcare will not be tolerated, especially during a pandemic.”
Surgeon General Vice Admiral Jerome M. Adams, MD, MPH, added, “Minorities have long experienced disparities related to the medical and social determinants of health – all of the things that contribute to your health and wellbeing. The COVID-19 pandemic has magnified those disparities, but it has also given us the opportunity to acknowledge their existence and impact and deepen our resolve to address them.”
As CMDA has demonstrated and encouraged, followers of Christ can use this unique moment in our nation’s history to advance principles of the faith regarding race. We can continue to promote the revolutionary biblical truth that every human being—of all races, both genders and at every point along the continuum of life from fertilization to natural death—carry the very image of God and as such merit our deepest respect, protection and love.