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Advancing Community wellness in the Coachella Valley

CEO's statement: Racism contributes to our public health crisis

A young black man looks down at the floor during a therapy session.

Dear Grantees, Partners, Friends,

As communities across the country take to the street and risk their lives to demand justice, the Desert Healthcare District and Foundation stands in solidarity with protesters and against racism, oppression and inequality in all of its forms, because we believe that inequities have consequences, both visible and invisible.

The deaths of black Americans in the hands of law enforcement, and the racial targeting of innocent bystanders are all visible tragedies. These incidents are not individual or isolated. These occurrences illustrate the historic, persistent, and sometimes hidden systemic barriers to equity and opportunity faced by black Americans and other people of color.

Some may say that our focus is healthcare.  It is in this context that we recognize that the killing of black Americans in this country is, and for too long has been, a public health crisis. It is a crisis rooted in the toxic traditions of systemic racism and white supremacy. George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and many more have died at the hands of the police and vigilantes —they should all be alive today.

For this, we condemn racism, bigotry, and white supremacy. No one should have to fear for their lives because of the color of their skin, ethnic origin or identity. No parent should have to worry for their child’s safety and well-being when they venture outside of their home. No community should disproportionately bear the burden of social, economic and health challenges, and yet studies show that the overall health of people of color ranks lower than the overall health of whites. People of color are affected by higher incidences of hypertension, diabetes, various cancers, and COVID-19, with stress frequently listed among the contributing factors. There are few experiences more stressful than institutional discrimination and policing inequities.

This is a moment that demands empathy, listening, and deep reflection. The Desert Healthcare District and Foundation is dedicated to achieving optimal health at all stages of life for all District residents. We cannot accomplish this mission without paying close attention to diversity, equity and inclusion in our work and within our organization’s culture.

To make progress, we have to shift the conditions that hold a problem in place. And doing this means building a healthcare system that focuses on equity and inclusion, a healthcare system that focuses on the needs of all our residents, including, and especially, the needs of our communities of color.

We are committed to listening carefully to our many partners – especially those individuals and organizations with trusted relationships in communities of color, regarding the barriers that hold inequities in place and opportunities for the District to strengthen community assets and advance shared strategies. Our work together has never been more important. We can and must do more to stand up, speak out, and stand with those who share our commitment to a just, equitable and safe Coachella Valley.

Conrado E. Bárzaga, MD

Chief Executive Officer