Essentia Health promotes workforce diversity with new program

(Fargo, ND)-- Essentia Health-Fargo announced a new pilot program to help promote diversity, equity and inclusion in its workforce. Specifically, Essentia will hire a community health specialist from the New American community to lead this program intended to increase the number of Black, Indigenous, people of color (BIPOC) employees and improve retention. While this program is Essentia-led, it is largely community driven, having garnered support from various organizations like United Way and the Afro American Development Association.

This program was developed after several listening sessions and interviews were held with members of the New American community in Cass and Clay counties, who identified lack of workforce and economic opportunities as the root cause of racial health inequality in their communities.

Essentia Health’s president, Dr. Bill Heegaard, and chief operating officer, Al Hurley, are proud to promote and pursue diversity.

“At Essentia, we believe that when our workforce is diverse, we will be better able to meet the health care needs of the communities we have the privilege of serving,” the leaders said. “Building a strong foundation of diversity, equity and inclusion within our walls has been a top priority, and we are proud to continue this important work.”

Added Thomas Hill, vice president of community impact for United Way of Cass-Clay: “At United Way of Cass-Clay, we see the opportunity to fill our community’s workforce shortage by providing training, education and support to local families so they can get and maintain in-demand jobs such as those in the health care field. Essentia Health’s strategic work to promote diversity, equity and inclusion in its workforce complements our collaborative work to provide opportunities for all families in our community to become stronger and healthier.”

According to a 2021 Community Health Needs Assessment of Cass and Clay counties, 33% of Black/African-Americans rated economic or employment opportunities as poor or fair. This project aims to reduce that number by 3% by 2024.

“Diversity should be celebrated in order to help overcome stereotypes and encourage unity,” said Cani Aden, community liaison officer for the Afro American Development Association. “We believe this pilot project will help eliminate more challenges in the community, and Afro American Development Association is happy to be part of this.”

Essentia received $125,000 in grant funding from the State of North Dakota Health Equity Department and $15,000 from Consensus Council for the implementation of this program.