'Not on our watch': Atrium CEO tells Senate how his system is tackling health disparities

The CEO of Charlotte, N.C.-based Atrium Health testified to a U.S. Senate Committee on March 25 that the public and private sector need to collectively adopt a "not on our watch" approach to addressing healthcare disparities.

Eugene Woods, the president and CEO of Atrium Health, said he was profoundly distressed to see people of color die disproportionately from COVID-19.

"It was extremely personal for me; they could have been members of my own family," Mr. Woods said.

In response, Atrium Health has adopted a "not on our watch" approach to focus efforts on vulnerable Charlotte communities. Their approach took them to at-risk communities to deliver 2.6 million free face masks in a collaborative effort with both private and public organizations.

Atrium Health also analyzed geographic data to locate the zip codes where there were disparities in testing and treatment. It worked with local pastors and community leaders to deploy mobile medical units into church parking lots, YMCAs and even construction sites.

Mr. Woods believes this approach can be applied on a national scale, and the pandemic proved communities, government agencies and businesses need to partner to create real solutions in health equity.

"It took us less than a decade to put Neil Armstrong on the moon, and doing so required tremendous collaboration and ingenuity that showed the world who we were as Americans at our very best," Mr. Woods said. "I believe we can apply the same collaboration and ingenuity in these times to eliminate healthcare disparities by 2030, whether in urban or rural communities, if we take this moment to collectively say, 'Not on our watch.' "

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