Spectrum Health Lakeland sets aside $50 million to help address racial equity, health inequities

ST. JOSEPH – The Board of Directors of Spectrum Health Lakeland approved an expanded strategy to address racial and ethnic health equity in southwest Michigan communities during a special meeting hosted this week.

The three-part approach outlined by Lakeland leadership commits resources, leadership and transparency dedicated to reducing racial disparities and improving health equity.

Lakeland will commit significant resources to address these issues, as part of an overall, long-term commitment that Spectrum Health system announced this week to spend $100 million over the next decade.  A board-designated capital fund of $50 million will fund health equity work in the communities Lakeland serves. The interest from this investment is expected to generate a $20-25 million investment over 10 years. Governance and oversight of the fund will be retained by the Spectrum Health Lakeland Board of Directors.

“We recognize that this is a point in time that requires concerted action, and we’re renewing our commitment to ensure we’re doing all we can to significantly reduce health disparities and remove inequities that might exist in our healthcare system,” said Dan Hopp, xhairman of the Spectrum Health Lakeland Board of Directors. “We are grateful that through our integration discussions with Spectrum Health, we collaborated to ensure the Lakeland Board would have the freedom to use a designated amount of our accumulated capital for specific purposes, including activities directed at improving the overall health of our community, particularly those currently underserved.  This is the first step of a journey that we hope will achieve that end.”

Lynn Todman

Further information about the fund will be shared later this calendar year, with an expectation that grants would be awarded in early 2021. Lakeland has developed collaborative partnerships throughout southwest Michigan to work on improving health inequities and the fund will stimulate new initiatives, innovations and progress toward health equity for all.

To ensure focused leadership, Lynn Todman has been appointed as vice president of health equity and will serve as a member of Lakeland’s senior leadership team. Todman also recently assumed a Spectrum Health system role leading the harmonization of community health work across the system, which she will retain. Todman joined Lakeland in 2015 as executive director of population health. In addition to leading the population health team, her key efforts have included the development of the Community Grand Rounds speakers series focusing on how racism affects health outcomes, and launching Brave Talks, small group discussions about racism and its impact on the health of our community.

“Spectrum Health Lakeland is committed to fully live our mission of improving health, inspiring hope, and saving lives. Racial injustice is harming health and shortening lives,” said Loren B. Hamel, president of Spectrum Health Lakeland and chief strategy officer for Spectrum Health. “We recognize that some in our community have benefited less, and we want to ensure we are listening and focusing on their needs. Dedicated leadership is vital in the work to address the issues of racial equity and improving health disparities to ensure Lakeland is a place where everyone feels welcome. We are fortunate to have Dr. Todman leading these efforts.”

Spectrum Health Lakeland, along with the entire Spectrum Health System, commits to full transparency on what it is doing, how well it is working, and how it is investing its resources related to racial and health inequities, officials said. Lakeland will make that continuously visible to those it serves and those it employs, as well as to its board of directors.

The terms disparities or inequities are often used highlight differences between racial or ethnic groups, and inequities can exist across many other dimensions as well, such as gender, sexual orientation, age, disability status, socioeconomic status and geographic location. Many factors can influence a person’s ability to achieve optimal health. Across the country, and in the communities Lakeland serves, African Americans experience lower average life expectancies as well as disproportionately high rates of premature death and chronic diseases such as obesity, diabetes, and heart disease, officials said. They also experience many of the poor social and economic conditions that lead to these health inequities.

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