Working toward greater equality

We are deeply saddened by the events that have unfolded in our communities. The tragic deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor are harsh reminders of the pain, fear, and inequality that racism engenders for black people living in America. As a patient-centered healthcare organization, we recognize that racial injustice in our society, and the terrible disparities it creates in healthcare and communities of color, thwart our mission to serve all people with inflammatory bowel disease.

To do our part to help address these systemic societal issues and drive critical change, our organization is working to listen to our patients and learn about their needs. We will incorporate these learnings into our work as we search for cures for Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis, and strive to improve the quality of life of children and adults affected by these diseases.

Over the past year we have introduced a number of initiatives across our Foundation to help us proactively assess and address racial gaps in healthcare access, our internal staffing and volunteer base, and increase our cultural awareness. These include:

  • We received funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to: 
    • Build an ethnically diverse registry of patients with diagnoses of Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis;
    • Determine whether race is associated with different patterns of care, including delayed diagnosis and adequate treatment; and 
    • Estimate the incidence and prevalence of IBD at a national level using representative claims data that encompasses populations from all segments of the socioeconomic and geographic distribution of the U.S.
  • We updated our organizational values in 2019, to include an explicit focus on inclusion, which we take very seriously.  Specifically, we strive to create a positive culture that welcomes, respects, and values differences while seeking out opportunities to safeguard against inequalities and disparities, and we actively seek out people of diverse backgrounds to inform the development of our strategies and activities.  
  • We launched a Diversity & Inclusion task force earlier this year, to focus on 3 strategic objectives that we consider to be essential in the accomplishment of our mission:
    • Build and sustain an organization that is reflective of the Foundation’s diverse patient population and the United States
    • Create an inclusive Foundation culture, including: 
      • Emphasizing and encouraging diversity and inclusion within the organization’s staff and their individual experiences. 
      • Implementing a model through which Foundation employees lead by example, promoting a diverse and inclusive community culture with local partners, volunteers, and constituents.
    • Increase the awareness and education of Crohn’s and colitis across all communities, with an additional focus on people of color.

This work will be integrated into our strategic plan, as we set goals that further our mission and commitment to the IBD community.

I am proud of the steps that this organization is taking toward greater equality—but they are still not enough. Much more is needed, and we must continue to work to understand racial inequities and take action. We feel strongly that we can only fully accomplish our mission in a setting of racial justice.

I promise that we will work harder to do our part to ensure that the IBD community and healthcare resources are open and available to all. We are committed to this, and will continue to keep you informed of our initiatives in this area.

Michael Osso is President & CEO of the Crohn's & Colitis Foundation