Silver Cross Hospital Brings Community Leaders Together for Discussion on Health Equity
On the eve of Juneteenth, the new federal holiday that commemorates the end of slavery in the U.S., Silver Cross Hospital in New Lenox brought together a group of community leaders for a candid discussion about how to advance health equity throughout the region.
The discussion was held in conjunction with the hospital’s participation in the Illinois Health and Hospital Association’s (IHA) inaugural Health Equity Action Day.
Photo Caption: Silver Cross Hospital brought community leaders and legislators together today for a discussion about how to advance health equity throughout the region. Participants included, from right: Silver Cross Healthy Community Commission Members Betty Washington, Wynter Jackson and Debra Upshaw; Will County Executive Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant; State Sen. Michael Hastings; and Healthy Community Commission Members Cesar Cardenas and Pastor Herbert Brooks, also a Will County Board Member.
Silver Cross participants included Will County Executive Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant, State Sen. Michael Hastings (D-Frankfort), State Sen. John Connor (D-Crest Hill), members of the hospital’s Healthy Community Commission and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Council, and several hospital leaders, including President and Chief Executive Officer Ruth Colby. The group watched the IHA’s virtual program first and then had a roundtable discussion led by Troy Cicero, President and Chief Skill Officer of MulticultuReal Communications in Joliet.
The Council’s mission – “Inspiring healthy relationships through an inclusive culture” – resonated with all those present.
“The difference that each and every one of you can make in this community is so very apparent, and I’m grateful that you took the time to have this discussion and really learn about what we can do together,” Colby told the group.
“You have to be present as a leader, as a colleague and as a friend and meet people where they are,” Sen. Hastings added. “If we can do that and understand each other’s points of view, I think our community – which I believe is a great community because I’ve been around the whole State of Illinois – will be even better.”
Healthy Community Commission Leading the Way for 13+ Years
Founded in 2008, the Silver Cross Healthy Community Commission is a community-based organization committed to creating a stronger, healthier future by providing support for education, workforce development training and enrichment activities for youth – all with the purpose of improving the quality of life for the communities Silver Cross serves. Since its founding, the Commission has awarded $2.5 million in educational scholarships, workforce development and quality-of-life grants to numerous east-side Joliet residents and organizations.
“I’m so grateful to Ruth for bringing us all together,” added Debra Upshaw, Healthy Community Commission Board Member and President of the Joliet Chapter of the National Hook-up of Black Women. “We are the ones who have to have the accountability, to stand up for what we believe in. We are all equal.”
Commission member Cesar Cardenas, owner of Unidos Marketing Network and board member of the Spanish Community Center, agreed, adding, “Advancing health equity in the black and brown community is not new to Silver Cross. The Healthy Community Commission has been at this for a long time, and we look forward to the work we’re going to continue to do to improve the health of those in the community.”
Pandemic Brings Health Disparities to Light
One of the most troubling aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic has been the disproportionate harm that it caused to individuals of color. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly three times as many black and Hispanic individuals were hospitalized with COVID-19 compared to white individuals, and were twice as likely to die of the disease.
That’s why, when COVID-19 vaccine distribution guidelines broadened in February, Silver Cross worked closely with Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant and members of the Healthy Community Commission, National Hook-up for Black Women and the Spanish Community Center to reach out to members of the black and brown communities.
“Ruth Colby called me immediately, and said we want to help,” Bertino-Tarrant said, “and that was very powerful because we knew we had a crisis going into this. Silver Cross was a leader in helping the vaccine rollout become so successful. We know the importance of achieving health equity in our community, and I as a leader am committed to that.”
Since the hospital began vaccinating in mid-December, it has given nearly 33,000 vaccine doses at its New Lenox campus.
State Sen. John Connor (D-Crest Hill) added, “I am proud to work alongside so many esteemed individuals on the journey toward health equity for all Illinoisans, and I celebrate the efforts we are seeing across the state to ensure quality healthcare for all our residents.”
In her closing remarks, Colby thanked those present for their insights, their support and the continued work they’ll do alongside the hospital to ensure health equity for all.
“I am humbled by the team that works with me every single day and what you bring here and what you do for us,” she said. “Thank you for sharing your lives with Silver Cross. And to the members of the Healthy Community Commission, you believed in us from the very beginning, and you have made us a better hospital every single time we get together with the ideas you’ve brought and the connections you’ve brought. That’s community.”
For more information, visit www.silvercross.org