By: Shelly Trumbo

5 minute read

2020 has been a year we are not likely to forget for a long time. This year has brought devastating impacts—the coronavirus pandemic, record wildfires in our own backyard, nationwide protests for social justice, and a tense election season with potential to help or hurt these major issues. However, despite what seems like a year full of disaster, we’ve also seen unity born from these challenges—Adventist Health White Memorial’s race to provide basic needs and food to Boyle Heights in the first few days of the pandemic, Adventist Health St. Helena’s quick response to the Glass Fire (see Spotlight, PEARLS Issue 12) and much more. From these challenges, we’ve learned from each other and most importantly from our communities.  

One conversation taking place at the forefront of community leadership is equity. Despite recent attention sparked by the wrongful death of George Floyd, equity is a big issue and not a new one. The protests calling for social justice opened a dialog around equity from many businesses, non-profits and government officials alike. Adventist Health’s mission to “live God’s love, by inspiring health, wholeness and hope” uniquely positions us ahead of this dialogue as a leader in this space–working towards a time when well-being is accessible to everyone.  

The pandemic has shown the brutal reality of health inequity. Data shows that people of color and low-income households have been disproportionately affected by the coronavirus, in large part due to social determinants of healthor being considered an essential worker without options to stay home. Black, Hispanic and American Indian people have been 2.5 times more likely to contract COVID-19 than white people and five times more likely to be hospitalized 

Sadly, this should not be overly surprising to us as a system. We know from our CHNA’s that access to health is a major issue in our communities. We’ve gone outside our hospitals and have seen vulnerable populations struggling to make ends meet, to feed their children, to access healthcare, to live in affordable housing. While other healthcare systems, businesses, and non-profits are deciding how they will interact in this space, we are already far along the path. Through the Well-Being Division, Blue Zones Projects, and the Pioneer Project, we have set the tone and cadence to transform the well-being of people, the well-being of places and equity.  

Betsy Taylor, Adventist Health’s interim Chief Philanthropy Officer, summarizes our call to action courageously; “If the traditional health sector—including our hospitals and our health foundations—fails to step forward to address these issues…others will. So, we must decide if we choose to lead or if we want to follow”. We have chosen to lead.  Our 2030 strategy has prioritized the commitment to innovation in supporting improved well-being for vulnerable populations by addressing equity through an innovative eco-system of solutions aligned with our measurement framework structure of people, places and equity. Maximizing the proven Blue Zones Project operational structures and methodologies will help us measurably improve the well-being of all people, everywhere. We are the living laboratory that will bring these solutions to life.  

To learn more about health inequity and the coronavirus, read Betsy Taylor’s recent and insightful work “Driving Real Change in Community Health 

To learn more about Equity see our measurement framework established in 2019 as the foundation for our work. 

“A community can only be healthy if every member has the opportunity to be healthy.” – John Shroer, Global Missions. Every person deserves a fair chance to prosper and experience well-being. Adventist Health is working hard to transform well-being in our communities by focusing on people, places and equitable solutions. Watch how Adventist Health White Memorial distributed food during the COVID-19 pandemic here.