Patient Advocate Certification Board Statement and Call to Action

June 4, 2020

Since early 2020, our nation has joined much of the rest of the world in the fight against significant health crisis. COVID-19 is a pandemic that has so far claimed the lives of more than 107,000 people in the U.S. alone. But our country is facing another major public health crisis that has been happening in our nation since its founding—the systemic racism that unfairly disenfranchises so many black and brown persons in our society.  These two health crises are related. A recent study from Yale University reported that black Americans die from COVID-19 at 3.5 times the rate of whites, while Latinos die at twice the rate of white Americans. The reasons for these differences are many and complicated, and are rooted in the inequities that are part of the social determinants of health.

In the past several days, America has been overwhelmed with heart-wrenching images of the egregious killing of George Floyd and the killing of Breonna Taylor over mistaken identity in Louisville, Kentucky.  We have seen images of Ahmaud Arbery being shot while out on a run in his neighborhood, and Christian Cooper being reported to 911 for watching birds in Central Park and asking a white woman to follow the rules and put her dog back on the leash. These are but a few of the many incidents of racial injustice that have occurred in just the past month. Yet these incidents are nothing new. Trayvon Martin, Rodney King, Eric Garner, Freddie Gray, Stephon Martin, the Tulsa race riots and all the way back to Emmett Till and before. Our black and brown brothers and sisters are hurting. They deserve better.

As patient advocates, we hold as part of our core ethical principles,

  • The belief that equal access to appropriate healthcare and treatment is the right of each individual. Advocates strive for clients’ equal access to health services without regard to age, race, religious/spiritual practice, culture, ethnicity, sexual orientation or gender identity, and immigration status.
  • Advocates are committed to assisting clients of all cultural and ethnic backgrounds. They shall be mindful of the cultural context of medicine and each client’s cultural contexts by respecting individual perspectives. When unfamiliar with a client’s ethnic or cultural background, advocates will work to understand preferences, and to include that regard into the provision of the client’s healthcare. (PACB Code of Ethics)

PACB stands in support of those who are marginalized, disenfranchised, or feel they are unheard, unseen, or dismissed.  We believe that all people deserve to receive the best care, to be listened to, to be understood, and to be valued. May we all be willing to listen, open-minded enough to learn, compassionate enough to care unconditionally. Those who struggle most are often the ones who need advocates.  Will you be there for them?  I will. Because this demands all of us!

Christine L. North, PhD, MPH, BCPA
President, Patient Advocate Certification Board