Dr. Hal Paz of Ohio State University sheds light on the direct link between racism and health disparities.

In an unprecedented break from the routine avoidance of political issues, major brands across the country have pledged their commitment and their resources to fight racism in the wake of the killings of George Floyd and many other Black people by police.

In Columbus, some 750 organizations including the leaders of the city’s largest private sector companies signed a letter to City Council declaring racism a public health crisis. The group of supporters has grown beyond 3,000 and represents a major departure from the sideline sentiments of the past. With businesses putting themselves out there to advance racial justice and equality—supporting employees attending protests and wearing Black Lives Matter garb—many have asked: Now what are these large corporations going to actually do to create meaningful change?

Columbus CEO asked business leaders.

As a medical expert, can you explain how racism affects health outcomes? And, can you share what your organization plans to do to address systemic racism and inequality?

Dr. Hal Paz: Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center and Ohio State’s seven health science colleges have a tremendous responsibility and opportunity to address the many ways racism affects the health of our community.

We know racial discrimination makes it hard to obtain good jobs, housing, education and other social determinants of health, therefore there is a direct line between racism and health outcomes.

For the July issue of Columbus CEO, we touched base with a number of business leaders on the topic of race. Here's what they had to say.

Our commitment to improving health among the underserved is decades long, with building up Ohio State East Hospital and the Outpatient East facility into thriving centers that offer quality health care services on the Near East Side. Our Moms2B program has been lowering preterm births among at-risk mothers for ten years. Now, our new Community Care Coach takes primary and maternal health care into underserved neighborhoods, and our new healthy community center at the former Martin Luther King Jr. Library will help decrease obesity and chronic illness in the community.

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As an academic health center, Ohio State Wexner Medical Center finds strength in the diversity of our faculty, staff and students. To achieve health equity, it is imperative that health care providers not only receive proper training to avoid racial and gender bias, but also that they come from all possible backgrounds.

Ohio State’s College of Medicine developed implicit bias training that is now used at colleges across the country. For six years, more than half of our incoming medical students have been women and a fourth of this year’s incoming class are from underrepresented backgrounds.

We encourage every business to do their part to improve opportunity, improve health and improve our Columbus.

Katy Smith is editor of Columbus CEO.