The horrific assault on the U.S. Capitol last week, and the events surrounding it, were a deeply disturbing and irrefutable example of how failure to accept and acknowledge shared facts and evidence undermines good governance, and how historic, systemic racism manifests and mutates to threaten the health and safety of individuals and society.
The growing fragmentation of our public discourse and the embrace of opinion as fact has evolved from disturbing trend to direct threat to our country and people. The potentially devastating impact of refusing to acknowledge a shared truth – here the result of the election - was amply demonstrated last Wednesday. We cannot develop shared solutions to the many challenges facing our nation today if we cannot have a civil debate and shared understanding of the evidence upon which good policy rests.
We also cannot help but observe - and should not ignore – the plain discrepancies in how planners and law enforcement prepared for and responded to the large, violent, and mostly white crowd, and how smaller groups of peaceful, protestors of color are historically (and recently) treated in their demands for basic civil rights. We must name, and respond to, this clear example of systemic racism that played out in the literal halls of Congress.
Where do we go from here?
The opportunity, indeed the imperative, for our field is to redouble its focus on producing the evidence that informs health policy and practice; we must do the hard work of public citizenry and policymaking. It is not enough to send our evidence into the world and hope it finds a useful home. As citizens of this country, and in our role as health services researchers and leaders in health policy, we must live our commitment to producing relevant, responsive evidence that reflects a variety of perspectives and actively working to use that evidence to inform better, more just health policy.
The next six months will be a window of significant health policy opportunity. AcademyHealth will lean into our values to navigate the currents and represent our field.
- Diversity and Inclusion: We can only achieve a shared truth and understanding of the world around us when we have diverse perspectives engaged in its creation. Our field is grappling with how structural racism, privilege, and under-representation of marginalized groups have shaped the health system, our work, and thus have shaped the evidence we bring forward to decisionmakers. AcademyHealth is prioritizing the work of diversity, equity and inclusion and our members are key to our progress.
- Collaboration and Community: Tuth informs and supports action when collaborative, multisector efforts are undertaken. AcademyHealth will work here in Washington and in collaboration with our members and partners to tackle three strategic priorities established by the Board of Directors: Science Innovation; Health Systems Improvement; and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion with a strong focus on racial justice. We will actively work to expand the tent of our community to engage new and non-traditional partners, especially under-represented perspectives of diverse racial and ethnic identities to achieve these aims.
- Trust and Integrity: The ability to make progress on our national challenges will be influenced by the degree to which we are able to build back trust in the institutions of our society and in each other. AcademyHealth will continue to provide a venue for spirited, evidence-based debate that is respectful even in very contentious areas, such as structural racism within the field of health services research. Hewing to our “north star” of evidence and our mission, we will act with integrity in all we do.
As the voice of the field in Washington, D.C., AcademyHealth is privileged to work with the many dedicated public servants and elected leaders who collectively strive to improve health and health care every day. Their dedication to our country and its people will not be bowed by last week’s attack. We join them, and you, in standing firm in our commitment to evidence, sound policymaking and the democratic principles enshrined in our Constitution. Together, we will continue to build a world in which evidence informs decisions for optimal health for all.