The National MS Society is Committed to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and Recognizes Progress
June 16, 2021
The National MS Society is committed to empowering every person with multiple sclerosis to live their best lives. But no one can live their best life when they face discrimination and exclusion.
Disparities in healthcare keep many marginalized communities from getting the quality care they need. As a national health organization, speaking out is not just a choice, it is a responsibility. When we lift up those most affected by systemic inequities in our communities and healthcare system, we lift up everyone and are more powerful in our work to achieve a world free of MS.
While diversity, equity and inclusion has been a longstanding core value of our organization, last June we recognized we needed to do more to ensure the MS movement is a place for all those affected by MS. We made a commitment to do better. We know that this effort is a journey, not a destination, and that there is more work to do, but here is our progress so far:
- Being an organization that is safe and welcoming for all starts from within.
- We formed employee resource groups to give staff of color a place to discuss their unique experiences and to help allies grow in their learning journeys.
- We increased the diversity of our staff through intentional hiring practices.
- We instituted organization-wide training to help all staff be better stewards of diversity, equity and inclusion, held listening sessions around courageous conversations, workshops reflecting on issues of identity and power in our organization, and unconscious bias, and conducted an intensive workshop on inclusive leadership for more than 70 leaders across the organization.
- We declared Juneteenth a paid Society holiday to encourage employees to celebrate as well as engage in reflection and anti-racist learning. And we acknowledged the painful history of colonization on indigenous people by discontinuing our observance of Christopher Columbus Day—instead, marking Election Day as a new Society paid holiday to promote civic engagement across our workforce.
- To ensure our commitment is prominent and routine in our organizational culture, we recite and share reflections on our diversity, equity and inclusion statement at the beginning of meetings.
- Increased the diversity of volunteer leadership with an emphasis on recruiting volunteers of diverse genders, races and ages.
- Launched Living Well With MS: A Guide for Black Americans with accompanying documentary, as well as targeted Public Service Announcements to inform the Black community about the signs and symptoms of living with MS.
- Continued to increase representation of diverse voices, perspectives and experiences throughout our work, including a dedicated issue of Momentum Magazine this spring focused on communities of color and disparities in diagnosis, treatment and perception.
- Developed an organization-wide diversity, equity and inclusion language guide to ensure our words foster inclusion in everything we do.
- Held our first-ever nationwide Black MS Experience Summit. Participants forged powerful connections, learned from leading scientific and healthcare experts, and gave voice to the unique needs of those in the Black community affected by MS. The 2021 Summit will be held in September. Learn more here.
- Joined other major organizations across the country to lay out principles and values that guide individual and collective efforts to advance racial equity and justice.
- Invested in research to deepen our understanding of how MS affects underrepresented groups, including a recent grant for a study investigating immune cell differences in racially and ethnically diverse individuals to describe why people of specific races and ethnicities with MS tend to experience more aggressive disease, and better inform treatment strategies.
Multiple sclerosis is an unpredictable disease of the central nervous system. Currently there is no cure. Symptoms vary from person to person and may include disabling fatigue, mobility challenges, cognitive changes, and vision issues. An estimated 1 million people live with MS in the United States. Early diagnosis and treatment are critical to minimize disability. Significant progress is being made to achieve a world free of MS.