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When IU Health Foundation realized it had to cancel its 2020 Rev Indy event due to the COVID-19 pandemic, event organizers offered donors, sponsors and ticket holders a couple of options: They could receive a refund on their Rev Indy contributions, which typically support trauma enhancements across Indiana, or they could redirect their funds to other initiatives, including one that IU Health Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer Lisa Gutierrez describes as addressing a different sort of trauma: “the trauma of racial injustice.”
Some supporters chose to redirect their funds. “People said, ‘I want to show my support of racial equity during these challenging times,’” Gutierrez said.
Created to address health inequities among Hoosiers and advance equitable care for all, the Racial Equity in Healthcare Fund is a response not only to the demands for racial justice that sprang up in the wake of the George Floyd murder, but also an ongoing imbalance in healthcare treatment and outcomes.
Canceling Rev was a difficult but obvious decision, as the massive gathering’s heavy focus on dining made it impractical during a pandemic. The timing, however, created an opportunity to respond to demands for racial justice by examining needs and opportunities and supporting initiatives that can make a difference.
The first program to receive support from the Racial Equity in Healthcare Fund will address infant mortality, an area of special concern in Indiana where infant mortality rates are high, especially among Black families. While the Indiana Department of Health reports that Indiana’s average infant mortality rate in 2019 was among the highest in the nation, at 6.5 deaths per 1,000 live births, the rate for Black families is far worse, at 13 deaths per 1,000 live births.
Donors’ gifts of $150,000 to the Racial Equity in Healthcare Fund will be used for “Cradle Indianapolis,” a new initiative designed to lower Indiana’s infant mortality rates, and modeled after a successful community collaboration in Cincinnati, which reduced infant mortality by 20% in less than 10 years.
A particularly impactful statement on their website denoted: A community’s infant mortality rate is the rate at which live-born babies in that community die from any cause before their first birthday. It’s typically portrayed as deaths per one thousand live births. So, for example, the 2015 infant mortality rate in the US was 5.90. That means that for every 1,000 babies born alive in the US in 2015, 5.90 did not survive. Because its causes are so multi-faceted, infant mortality is frequently cited as one of the best measures of a community’s overall health.
While the Indiana Department of Health reports that Indiana’s average infant mortality rate in 2019 was among the highest in the nation, at 6.5 deaths per 1,000 live births, the rate for Black families is far worse, at 13 deaths per 1,000 live births.
As the Foundation continues to accept donations to the Racial Equity in Healthcare Fund, it is also considering other initiatives that would support the recruitment of more people of color into leadership positions at IU Health, increase diversity and inclusion training, address bias, enhance language and translation services and prepare team members for encounters with patients or others who express racist, sexist or other disrespectful views.
Gutierrez sees the Racial Equity in Healthcare Fund as the perfect outlet for IU Health supporters who have a passion for racial justice. “That’s the part I love about philanthropy,” she said. “It allows people to invest in what’s important to them.”
Your gift to IU Health's Racial Equity Fund can mean better health outcomes and improved career opportunities for all people.