Two-Year Progress Report on Compassion & Choices’ Efforts to Diversify the Movement
We report on our progress to create greater diversity within the end-of-life care movement.
In 2018, the Compassion & Choices board of directors took three separate movement-changing votes that went into effect on July 1. Specifically, the board approved:
- Our diversity and inclusion values statement.
- Our new strategic plan, which elevated the issue of diversifying the movement to a top programmatic objective.
- Our FY19 budget, which included funding to advance our diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) efforts both internally and externally.
Since that time, we have moved forward in earnest to take steps toward diversifying the movement so that people of all demographic groups approach life’s end equipped with information and encouraged to claim their voice. This two-year progress report will focus on our efforts to diversify the movement in regards to race and ethnicity.
Compassion & Choices recognized that to diversify the movement we first needed to consider and address institutional racism inside our walls. Our efforts included employee training, policy reviews, equity adjustments, benchmarking and much more.
While this work has been challenging and is far from over, in just two years, we have made early encouraging progress:
- Two people of color joined our 11-person board of directors.
- We increased the racial diversity of our previously all-white c-suite (0% to 40%) to include members from the Asian Pacific Islander, African American and Hispanic/Latino communities in key programmatic positions.
- Increased the racial diversity of our staff by 11% (from 23% to 34%).
In doing this, we hired and promoted the top candidates — and our programs have thrived from the diversity of perspectives. In fact, we have had the best years programmatically in the history of the end-of-life options movement. This includes the authorization of medical aid in dying in several states, successfully protecting all authorized states, and advancing public education efforts to empower patients, especially African Americans and Latinos/Hispanics, to “finish strong.”
While our early progress is encouraging, we are only at the beginning of our journey. Under the leadership of our president and CEO, the National Director of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Human Resources and our diversity consultant, the Raben Group, we will continue to listen, learn, innovate and take tangible, meaningful steps to create lasting change beyond this moment.
Beyond our internal progress, we have expanded efforts to engage authentically with various constituency groups. Our initial efforts focused on African Americans, Latinos/Hispanics, faith leaders and the LGBTQ community.
Early in 2018, we developed and launched our African American and Latino Leadership Councils, comprised of community leaders from diverse professional backgrounds, including faith leaders, a legendary civil rights advocate, physicians, a Hollywood actor, nurses, executives, family members of deceased advocates and policy makers.
These councils provide critical leadership and insight into our efforts. With their guidance, we have built partnerships with a dozen African American or Latino/Hispanic serving organizations, with the goal of educating their constituents about the importance of end-of-life planning and closing the disparities in care that exist at life’s end for African Americans and Hispanics. Most recently, we launched a historic collaboration with the Mexican Consulate and Ventanillas de Salud (Windows of Health) on a bilingual educational campaign to inform more than 1 million U.S.-based Mexican immigrants about their full range of end-of-life care options. Our partnership with the Sam De Witt Proctor conference, a cross section of progressive African American faith leaders and their congregations, resulted in a covenant on end-of-life care and planning that outlined their commitment to advance care planning and education.
We also expanded outreach efforts to faith leaders including launching a faith leadership council with nearly 50 members from diverse religious backgrounds including Protestantism, Judaism, Unitarian Universalist, Quaker, Presbyterian, Christian Science and Episcopalian. Members of the council signed letters to Congress, submitted letters to the editor, testified before state legislators and shared information about end-of-life planning with their congregants. In addition, every June, Compassion & Choices participates in Pride month. This includes disseminating our bilingual toolkits to supporters and staff who want to represent Compassion & Choices at Pride events in their area or online, and elevating the voices of supporters from these communities through digital and other media channels.
In addition, as soon as the COVID-19 disparities in end-of-life care became known, we began public education efforts to raise awareness about the importance of end-of-life planning to underserved populations. This includes the creation and distribution of:
- A fact sheet that outlines the disproportionate effect COVID-19 is having on African American, Latino, Asian and American Indian/Alaska Native populations.
- Our COVID-19 toolkit, available in English and Spanish.
- A seminar devoted to addressing the disparities in end-of-life care and planning as part of our Staying Stronger Together webinar series, and many others that addressed the issue as a part of the topic being discussed.
- A Spanish-language webinar on Advance Healthcare Directives in California.
- Bilingual webinars in New Mexico to build capacity with promotores known as community health workers.
- A robust outreach campaign that includes a repository of educational tools and resources, culturally competent messaging and videos, and impassioned letters, advertisements and webinars to inspire people of color to begin their path to advance care planning.
These are just some of Compassion & Choices’ activities underway to steadily eliminate the reality and consequences of racial disparities and injustices in end-of-life planning and care. Our commitment is to continue and expand upon this work so that all populations are fully empowered to chart an end-of-life journey that is consistent with their values, priorities and beliefs.