• Article
  • July 13, 2021

Dismantling Structural Racism for Children's Well-being

Here's why it matters and how those who work at children's hospitals can renew focus on building equity for the children, families and communities they serve.

Michellene Davis, President and CEO of National Medical Fellowships, weaves personal experience with data and historical context to highlight a way to dismantle structures of racism in hospitals and communities.

In Intentional Dismantling of Systemic Racism, she says we are on an equity journey together. "Each of us is called to be in some way intricately involved and ensuring there is a more equitable and just society made possible." She says to start where you work—in children's hospitals.

Davis challenges everyone to evaluate their situation by asking:

  • Where is power held?
  • Whose voice is heard?
  • What are our hiring practices?
  • Does our leadership reflect our community?

She says people can act by continually raising bias awareness, performing organizational cultural assessments, and applying a racial equity lens to decision-making. The key is to amplify voices that are not always represented.

"If we are not careful, and we do not express the intentionality that is required of us to become anti-racist…processes and protocols can lead to an equity adherent it holds in place—the status quo," Davis says. "This literally fights against our intention of trying to create a more equitable and just health care system, hospital or community."

Children's hospitals care for the most vulnerable in society, and addressing disparities among patients will, in effect, benefit all children. Davis calls this phenomenon "curb effect," which can close disparities and raise health outcomes for people of color. "If your analysis is around the most vulnerable, everyone else benefits. To intentionally dismantle structural racism in children's hospitals, then we must also make certain that we know what that looks like."

Becoming anti-racist

Davis outlines three, non-linear zones of becoming anti-racist: fear, learning and growth. "We know we're in the fear zone of becoming an anti-racist when we avoid hard questions, and we don't want to show up for the courageous conversation."

The learning zone comes with recognizing privilege and beginning to learn about race and structural racism. "Being anti-racist is something that requires daily visitation you must show up for in your own mind and check yourself against."

To grow, Davis says to consider what you can do to form an anti-racist community. Look inward, then look around—what do you see? There is no growth without some discomfort. "You don't let mistakes deter you from doing better; you recognize them; however, you return to those whom you may have offended and apologize."

To learn more, watch Intentional Dismantling Systemic Racism on demand. Send questions or comments.