In the weeks since the killing of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers, people around the world have been shaken into a new understanding of the extent and impact of deeply entrenched institutional racism in the United States, not just in law enforcement, but throughout society.
These and other recent tragic events underscore the truth that systemic racism is not transient news but in fact the hard reality that Black people live every day. George Floyd’s death and the many protests it sparked means we cannot wait for change. We must make change happen. We all need to engage in concrete action at a personal, organizational and societal level.
As an organization, we are determined to rise to the challenge by looking inward and outward at how we can better address racism and racial injustice. We have already embarked on a process that began with a series of community conversations led by an external facilitator, and the creation of a task force that will help us chart a path forward on our diversity, equity and inclusion work.
At its June 25 meeting, the Board of Trustees adopted a resolution that reads, in part: “The Board reaffirms its deep and heartfelt commitment to work alongside management to continue to broaden our efforts in promoting diversity, equity and inclusion in all aspects of the operations and governance of Vital Strategies. In keeping with our mission, we recognize diversity, equity and inclusion, not only as important social goals, but also as an important public health issue.” We will report our first findings and plans to the Board in October.
We are committed to a dialogue that is inclusive, frank, and constructive and that leads to actions both internally, in our organizational culture, and externally, in our work to protect and improve global public health.
Disparities in health outcomes exist around the world: people are constrained by poverty, geography, and stigma as well as unhealthy air and poor living conditions. Marginalized communities bear the brunt of the burden of health disparities, as the health systems they encounter fail to provide them with quality care. In the United States, Black Americans continue to pay the price of structural racism with their health, as evidenced by shorter life spans, poorer outcomes in medical treatment, staggeringly high maternal mortality rates, and more. We need only look at the disproportionate suffering of communities of color from COVID-19 to see the deadly effects of this crisis. It is an affront—and a challenge—to Vital Strategies’ values and our vision of a world where everyone is protected by a strong public health system.
We believe public health professionals have a leadership role to play. It is our responsibility to mitigate the impact of racism and other forms of social injustice so tightly woven in the web of systems that shape lives and livelihoods. It starts with us, and we must do more. We are committed to confronting injustice in how we work and in what we work on, in both the communities we serve and our organization. We hold ourselves accountable for making progress whenever and wherever we can.
—José Luis Castro, President and CEO of Vital Strategies