University of Utah and University of Utah Health are concurrently undergoing a Strategy Refresh Process. Together as One U we serve communities and the region, lead education and discovery, and innovate care, all while being accountable for outcomes. We believe that communities, partners, and people make us who we are, and we are fully invested in their health, wellness and success.
As we are going through our strategy refresh, we have observed senseless killings of black men and women across our nation and we are living through the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, which has had a disproportionate impact on people of color—further highlighting health inequities that have always existed but may not have been top of mind for many.
University of Utah Health is committed to addressing racism to reduce inequities. Our vision is to actively value equity, diversity, and inclusion and see the reflection and impact of these values at all levels of the organization—by recruiting and retaining diverse faculty, trainees, students, and employees. We are also striving to ensure that Utahns who seek care from University of Utah Health have easy and direct access to our services and are working to improve access to foundational health resources in languages other than English.
None of these goals can be met without community partnerships. An example of how we are forging partnerships is our Mental Health for Salt Lake (MH4SL) partnership. University of Utah Health, University Neighborhood Partners, Salt Lake County, and Latino Behavioral Health Services are coming together to review mental health resources available to residents of Salt Lake County’s west side. We understand that we can’t fully comprehend the needs of west side residents without bringing their voices to the table. In the near future, we will be convening community conversations around mental-health specific needs to conduct a gap analysis of mental health resources. Additionally, we will work side-by-side with community residents to make recommendations to improve mental health access to both Salt Lake County and University of Utah Health leaders.
In addition, University of Utah Health temporarily retrofitted our Wellness Bus (which typically provided diabetes screening, prevention, and education in west side communities) to a COVID-19 testing location. It was apparent a few months into the pandemic that the virus was disproportionately impacting people of color. We partnered with community organizations such as Comunidades Unidas, Urban Indian Center, Consulado de Mexico, the PRIDE Center, and many others to bring no-cost COVID testing to west side residents.
Communities are made up of the bonds that tie us all together. The COVID-19 pandemic has shown just how interconnected we all really are. We strive to be an equal partner, both in offering our expertise and listening to the experiences of the individuals who make up our community. It is our commitment to collaborate with the intent of better understanding community needs. Thank you for providing us the opportunity to partner with you, and to learn from you.
Content provided RyLee Curtis, Director of Community Engagement, University of Utah Health for the 2021 issue of UNP’s Community Voices magazine.
Featured Photo: University of Utah Health workers demonstrating solidarity in spring 2020 as White Coats for Black Lives.