WCMS Statement on Racism as a Public Health Crisis

June 8, 2020

Updated 9/8/2020

Racism is and has been a public health crisis since the birth of this country. Let us be clear: WCMS condemns structural and individual racism. We recognize this public denunciation is too little, too late and we are committed to the long journey ahead demanding concrete change in collective action with community members and partners.

Listed below are our initial commitments set to evolve as we listen, learn, and participate in dialogue to deepen our understanding:

WCMS will…

  • Share transparent data about health disparities and outcomes in our community
  • Work towards eliminating disparities in the health outcomes of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC)
  • Expose and eliminate institutional and individual racism in the WNC healthcare system
  • Address the social determinants of health that disproportionately impact BIPOC
  • Support mandatory transparency, disclosure of and accountability for police violence
  • Advocate for integration of police with community health workers, social service providers, mental health professionals, drug intervention specialists, etc. as first responders  
  • Advocate for funding to improve the socioeconomic development of BIPOC communities
  • Advocate for universal access to affordable health care for BIPOC
  • Advocate for the intentional recruitment and retention of BIPOC executives, staff, physicians, medical students, residents and providers in the WNC healthcare system
  • Address the language barriers experienced by limited English proficient POC
  • Add to WCMSF’s board of Directors at Large those who are BIPOC patients of Project Access and WIN

We understand that our statement is just the first step. As individuals and as an organization, we recognize that we have much more work to do in the realm of racial injustice.

Internally, WCMS is making deliberate and thoughtful efforts to:

  • Diversify our staff by advertising open positions in a variety of places, with an emphasis on making our job opportunities visible to the BIPOC community.
  • Encourage internal dialogue about systemic racism and how we can do better as an organization. Future staff meetings will be entirely dedicated to this topic.
  • Focus on learning. All staff will be undergoing a diversity and inclusion training.
  • Adopt goals and action steps in our annual Strategic Plan that recognize systemic racism as a public health crisis. This will create accountability between WCMSF and our constituents regarding our role in anti-racism and combatting systemic racism.

Structural and individual racism directly causes health disparities, comorbidities, chronic stress, and early death among BIPOC, their families, and their communities. The mission of WCMS is to increase access to affordable healthcare, fight health inequities, and promote wellness in WNC. We cannot hope to fulfill our mission without actively combating the enduring racism that continues to cause premature and wrongful deaths among BIPOC in our country.

We welcome your collaboration on this effort and thank you for being a part of our WCMS community.

Richard Bunio, MD, WCMS Association President

Carol Coulson, MD, WCMS Foundation Chair

Miriam Schwarz, MPA, WCMS CEO