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The Joint Commission Stands for Racial Justice and Equity

The Joint Commission has been deeply shaken and saddened by the death of George Floyd. The image of his senseless death is a cause for all of us to examine our institutions to assure we are working toward eliminating racial inequality, bias and disparities in America.

The Joint Commission has no tolerance for racial discrimination in our own organization or in the health care organizations we accredit and certify.

Sadly, we know that racism exists in health care. Many decades ago, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.” Yet, we continue to see racial bias and disparities in care received by people of color.

People of color in America often experience significantly poorer health outcomes than their white counterparts. Black mothers are nearly four times more likely to die during pregnancy, during childbirth and immediately following their pregnancies than white mothers.

While data is still incomplete regarding the coronavirus, we can see that African Americans are dying at twice the expected rate based on their share of the population nationwide. In some states, they are dying at three to four times the expected rate. And given the low access to testing in black communities, it is possible these numbers are higher.

Institutional, systemic racism adversely affects health. Studies have shown that racism and its associated stressors begin impacting physical and mental health as early as childhood and adolescence, leading to poor mental health and higher rates of chronic disease later in life.

The Joint Commission is committed to safe, high-quality health care for all. We require our accredited organizations to protect the rights of individuals and prohibit discrimination. Our patient-centered communication standards guide providers to assure that people of all races, backgrounds, disabilities and income levels receive care that is free of prejudice.

But none of us acting alone can solve this problem. This is a challenge that dates to our country’s founding. The only way to overcome it will be to work together.

We ask all health care workers, patients and families to speak up if they see an injustice committed. Health care organizations should encourage and support their staff to confront overt racism and implement efforts to address the implicit biases of coworkers and senior staff members.

If you experience discrimination at an accredited organization, tell us. You can submit a report of what happened to our Office of Quality and Patient Safety online, here.

Clinicians take an oath to do no harm. We think it is time for all of us to take one, too — to cast away prejudice and stand with all people of color in ending racism and injustice.

Now, let’s work together to put an end to this plague.