A Statement on Racial Inequities from Aaron Todd, CEO and Ron Kemp, Board Chair of the Iowa Primary Care Association

June 03, 2020

The Iowa Primary Care Association (Iowa PCA) adopted a new vision statement in early 2020: Health equity for all. The concept is bold. Four short words that mean a lot more than perhaps is understood at first glance.  

Health equity means every person has the opportunity to achieve their highest level of health. Of course, this means access to timely, necessary health services at an affordable price. But it means a lot more than that. It also means access to safe, affordable, and dignified housing. It means access to employment and entrepreneurial activities that support a good life and a family, if desired. It means access to affordable, healthy food and opportunities for rest and relaxation. It also means freedom from injustice, prejudice, and discrimination. These are essential ingredients for health. 

We purposefully applied our vision statement to “all.” Not just Iowans. Not just the patients served at community health centers. All persons. 

In the short time since we adopted our vision statement, two events of national prominence have vividly illustrated inequities in our society. The first is the COVID-19 public health pandemic. Data from across the country demonstrates that persons of color are disproportionately impacted by the pandemic either through infection or economic loss due to their place of work, living situation, socio-economic status, and other reasons. Our data right here in Iowa anecdotally tells the same story.  

And now, the horrific murder of George Floyd. One of the most recent casualties of a centuries-long struggle of Black persons to simply be treated as human, with all the dignities, protections, and rights that are afforded to--and frankly taken for granted by--white people. These privileges extend beyond treatment by the police. White neighborhoods, schools, employers, governments, and healthcare providers all share an institutional blame for current disparities between white and Black life expectancy, infant mortality, home ownership, unemployment, and so on. Allies abound in every organization, but the indignity of these institutions is a feature, not a bug. And Black people have always been at the receiving end. 

Community health centers are local providers that respond to local problems with local solutions. They grew out of the Civil Rights Movement as a commitment to treat the most marginalized of us with compassion and excellence in care. As we mourn together, we must look squarely at the conditions that have made this violence possible and that exacerbate inequities, and stand together as we urgently work to change them for the better.  

Our new vision statement brings our work into clearer focus. We call on our elected leaders to take meaningful action; your words are appreciated and your actions required. The Iowa PCA and Iowa’s community health centers stand ready to work with elected officials and community partners to listen to the needs of our communities, and to find and implement solutions. The work will be hard and may be uncomfortable, yet it is essential. And to any person who may not feel like they have a dignified, safe, and affordable medical home, you have a standing invitation at Iowa’s community health centers.   

In solidarity, 

Aaron Todd
Iowa Primary Care Association
Ronald W. Kemp
CEO, Community Health Centers of Southeastern Iowa 
Board Chair, Iowa Primary Care Association