Dignity Health CEO Lloyd Dean on how his upbringing affected his views on healthcare

In an interview with U.S. News & World Report published July 27, San Francisco-based Dignity Health President and CEO Lloyd Dean discussed his mission to expand healthcare access to underserved communities and the effect recent efforts to repeal the ACA have had on people's access to care.

Mr. Dean noted housing stability is "so important" to healthcare and cited his upbringing as part of a "welfare family" as the starting point for his interest in healthcare and the study of health disparities between people of different races.

Here are six quotes from Mr. Dean's interview with U.S. News:

1. "When you think about the fact that there are so many people in this country who are homeless on a given night, and then you zero in further and begin to sort that data and you see that a large proportion of those individuals that are homeless are African-American, it just caused me to say [Dignity Health has] got to be more than just a comprehensive healthcare provider. We've got to be in and of the community, and we've got to do the work here to try to make sure that we address the totality of the individual."

2. "I think it's a moral imperative that we act. … A lot of times ... folks present with multiple diagnoses. It's mental health. And we're going to pay for that. We pay for it over and over again. We know that ERs are the most expensive way for people to get treatment. We know the cost of our healthcare is continuing to go up and one of the drivers of that is people getting the wrong care in the wrong setting at the wrong time. I think that everybody should be concerned."

3. While commenting on his upbringing, Mr. Dean said he didn't really understand how healthcare disparities manifested until he was in middle school and bused to a school in a more affluent community.

"I noticed there was a difference between how people in my community didn't deal with their healthcare needs. But yet when I would go to that school, I had friends — their parents were pulling them out of school for what I now know were inoculations and preventative treatment. I saw people in my community who were homeless, and just kind of roving around the community. I didn't notice it at the time, but I realized the contrast between high blood pressure, gout, cardiac kinds of problems, obesity caused the difference [between African-Americans and whites] in health outcomes."

4. "I think that as health leaders and as good corporate citizens, we're mandated to speak out. I try to use the voice of Dignity Health ... to keep calling out the disparities. Because some people still, in 2018, when they hear 'disparities,' it's like it's happening in some other country and not here, in the United States. … [Dignity Health is] using [its] voice for Medicaid and Medi-Cal expansion and making sure that we get folks involved in insurance plans. … People in this country have to make a choice between food and rent and pharmaceuticals and, in the aggregate, healthcare, because they don't have the ability to pay. That continues to lead to health disparities."

5. "I dealt with [the effects of healthcare disparities] personally because my mother and father both died early. I believe — I know — that my father died because he acquired black lung disease working in this factory, a metal factory, no mask, no nothing. But he had to go. And then when the factories would shut down, we'd be on welfare. So we just didn't have any access."

6. "I've been disappointed in leadership across the nation who turn a blind eye to the impact that health disparities have on the country. We were one of the first organizations nationally to come out and back the Obama administration and to advocate for the ACA. It gave me hope and it was an opportunity to get resources to communities and get programs out there and get people in a situation where health access was available to them. Now, with efforts to repeal the law, we have to come at it from a community level. We have to come at it from a state and local level. I haven't given up on the federal level, but we keep pulling one leg out from the ACA stool, and I think people are underestimating the impact of the decisions that have been recently made on health disparities."

To access Mr. Dean's full U.S. News interview, click here.

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