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Published on February 04, 2021

Avera Joins Commitment to Health Equity

Avera Joins Other Catholic Health Care Systems in Making Comprehensive Commitment to Confronting Racism by Achieving Health Equity


We Are Called boy holding caregiver handAvera today announced that it is joining with the Catholic Health Association of the United States (CHA) in a new initiative to confront racism by achieving health equity. Avera joins 22 of the nation’s largest Catholic health care systems committed to confronting systemic racism by prioritizing equity in response to COVID-19; enacting change across their own health care systems by examining and changing hiring, promotion and retention practices to ensure diversity and inclusion; forming stronger partnerships with communities of color to improve health outcomes; and leveraging their united and powerful voice to advocate for policy changes that address the root causes of racism and social injustice.

“Because we are all created in God’s image and all belong to the same human family, Avera continues to work toward health equity and social equity for all,” said Bob Sutton, CEO and President of Avera. Just one example is our work with American Indians, who comprise 9% of South Dakota’s population and are the largest racial minority group we serve. This group also experiences some of the biggest health disparities in terms of outcomes in categories such as cancer, suicidality, chronic liver disease and diabetes as well as our latest health threat – COVID-19.

“We’ve developed partnerships that are working to address complex issues within our footprint, reaching out to at-risk populations through innovative means like telemedicine and meeting people where they are in the spirit of cultural humility and respect. We’re signing this pledge because we recognize the challenges and want to be part of the solution,” Sutton said.

We Are Called Cardinal Quote

Collectively, Avera and the other Catholic health organizations (see list below) who have signed the Catholic Health Association of the United States’ (CHA) Confronting Racism by Achieving Health Equity pledge employ nearly a half million people across 46 states and the District of Columbia and care for almost four million patients annually.   

Recognizing that racism is an affront to the core values of Catholic social teaching, CHA members joined in solidarity to promote the common good and seek justice by being actively anti-racist and accountable in effecting positive change in the communities we serve. 

Four focus areas

  • Act for COVID-19 equity: Members commit to ensuring that testing for COVID-19 is available and accessible in minority communities and that new treatments are distributed and used equitably as they become available. Members will also work for prioritization  of vaccinations for those individuals and families at higher risk — elder populations and communities of color, including Native American communities. 
  • Enact change across our own health systems: Members are examining how their organizations recruit, hire, promote and retain employees; how they conduct business operations, including visible diversity and inclusivity at the decision, leadership and governance levels; and how they incentivize and hold our leaders accountable. 
  • Advocate for improved health outcomes for minority communities and populations: Members agree to promote and improve the delivery of culturally competent care and oppose policies that exacerbate or perpetuate economic and social inequities, including such issues as education, housing and criminal justice reform. 
  • Strengthen trust with minority communities: Members will continue to foster, strengthen and sustain authentic relationships based on mutually agreed goals to better understand the unique needs of their communities. 

Bob Sutton and other Catholic health care leaders who have signed the pledge recognize that collectively they are in a unique position to bring about overdue change to policies and practices that have allowed systemic racism and health disparities to continue in the United States. 

To hold itself and its members accountable, CHA intends to provide updates on the commitment progress annually. 

To learn more about this initiative visit

The 23 Catholic health care organizations that have signed the pledge are: 

  • Ascension
  • Avera Health
  • Benedictine Health System
  • Bon Secours Mercy Health
  • CHRISTUS Health
  • CommonSpirit Health
  • Covenant Health
  • Elizabeth Seton Children's Center
  • Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady Health System, Inc.
  • Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity Sponsored Ministries, Inc.
  • Holy Redeemer Health System
  • Hospital Sisters Health System
  • Mercy
  • Mercy Health Services, Inc.
  • MercyOne
  • Peace Care St. Ann's
  • PeaceHealth
  • Providence St. Joseph Health
  • SCL Health
  • Sisters of Charity Health System
  • SMP Health System
  • SSM Health
  • Trinity Health

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Avera is a health ministry rooted in the Gospel. Our mission is to make a positive impact in the lives and health of persons and communities by providing quality services guided by Christian values.

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