Compassion: A Response to Racial Injustice and Health Disparity

Compassion: A Response to Racial Injustice and Health Disparity

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April 2021 National Health Observances include National Minority Health Month, and World Health Day, timely topics in the context of the coronavirus pandemic racial injustice and health disparity. Data cites the disproportionate rate of COVID infection and death in communities of color. We see the disparity of vaccine access in communities of color and for those with disability. At the state level, culturally inclusive messaging directed toward impacted communities and mobile or pop-up vaccination sites accessible to places people gather and work are one strategy. Ask yourself, what can each of us do about these issues? 
 
I find myself feeling compelled to be part of the solution. My first step was to volunteer to administer vaccinations at a mass vaccination site. While that helps promote access it does not solve the underlying issue of racism and health disparity. I keep thinking about the scripture, 1 Peter 3:8  reminding me to “be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble.”
 
Compassion was the concept I chose to explore during my Spiritual Care course in graduate school. As I explored the Hebrew and Greek biblical terms related to compassion, scripture and the writings of theologians my definition of compassion evolved. I believe compassion is a human or divine quality of sympathetic consciousness of another’s distress along with the desire to alleviate it, shown in acts of kindness and consideration. To be compassionate compels one to work to alleviate suffering. Perhaps this is how I/we can respond and work toward the end of structural racism and the Healthy People 2030 goal to “Create social, physical, and economic environments that promote attaining the full potential for health and well-being for all. ” (Healthy People 2030).
 
When we are compassionate, we act to change circumstances that are causing distress. We can start by learning about the issues and acknowledging that we have been part of the system that has perpetuated racial inequality and health disparities. Health inequity impacts the ability of children to do well in school; adults may have reduced work productivity. Health is a basic human right that supports one’s ability to thrive.  I plan to work to educate myself and others, and to find organizations and resources that are inclusive of people of all races, creed, age, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, marital status ethnicities, physical and mental abilities, and economic background, to work with to find solutions. I will strive to be unbiased in my language for health messages.
 
I believe Southern New England Conference is one such organization focused on the mission to Make Disciples of Jesus, Make God’s Love and Justice Real, to Bring New Life as Agents of Change and to Form Covenant Partnerships. This mission speaks loudly to following our faith to work toward racial justice and equal access to healthcare, healthy environments, transportation, social support, and safety. Through collaboration within the justice task teams and the power of our local congregations we can make a difference. The path is undetermined but the desire to seek justice is strong.
 
I will leave you with 1 Peter 4:10-11, which has been the foundation of my faith community nurse ministry. “10 Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. 11 If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.” (NIV). ~ Amen

Resources:

Health Equity Solutions, Connecticut marks Health Equity week April 4-10, 2021, by offering a panel discussion on April 5, at 6 PM - “CT’s Path to Health Equity”.  
 
Healthy People 2030  
 
Western Massachusetts Health Equity Network  
 
RI Health Equity Council  

Photo by Lucio Patone on Unsplash
 
 
 

Author

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Deborah Ringen

Deborah Ringen is the Minister of Health and Wellness for the Southern New England Conference, UCC.

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