To achieve equity in health care and eliminate disparities in all forms, provider organizations will need to act decisively. This is true across the health care ecosystem, from how organizations engage community groups to how leaders assess and deploy technology to how data are collected, analyzed and acted upon.
Professionals focused on improving community and population health and building partnerships, and those striving to advance diversity and inclusion within hospital management and executive levels recently convened at the third annual AHA Accelerating Health Equity Conference, co-led by the AHA Community Health Improvement Network and the AHA Institute for Diversity and Health Equity.
The conference produced a wealth of insights and strategies for all health care organizations to consider as they continue improving community and population health, forming partnerships and building and advancing diversity and inclusion within hospital and health system management. Here are some key takeaways from the post-event playbook.
4 Health Equity Priorities
1 | Build authentic and sustained community engagement and partnerships.
Cross-sector alignment tactics can be leveraged to address societal factors that influence health. Regional collaboration on community health involves stakeholders ranging from competing health systems to local health departments to municipal leaders.
- Strive to collaborate on community health issues even when working in highly competitive health care markets.
- Tap into a network of partnerships by working with local municipal leaders, such as those who participate in the Cities of Opportunity initiative.
- Collaborate regionally on community health assessments. This presents opportunities to eliminate duplicate efforts and align health advancement opportunities.
2 | Explore innovative partnerships to address mental health in your communities.
Alternative methods are being used to address the growing mental health crises in communities throughout the U.S. Creative-focused techniques and partnerships with new community players can help address unique challenges.
- Focus on resilience, social support, emotional regulation, stress, belonging and hope when developing programming for youth dealing with mental health challenges.
- Take a holistic approach that provides a foundation for more resilient mental health. Help people feel healthy, safe and supported through strong systems and relationships, while engaging them in programming that is relevant and meaningful.
- Bring in new partners, such as religious, education, arts and public safety personnel to break down mental health stigmas for diverse populations.
3 | Examine technology through a health equity lens.
Base technology decisions on values, not just capabilities, urged Ivor Horn, M.D., director of health equity and social determinants of health at Google. Technology conversations should be centered on communities. Bring equity into the conversation about technology early on.
- When assessing technologies, consider how health care transparency and integration come into play (e.g., algorithms that rely on inherently biased data) by asking about the potential for bias when evaluating technological solutions. Ensure that automated information comes from an authoritative source, and ask how to collect data for those experiencing the greatest disparities.
- Avoid unintended consequences when employing tech solutions by intentionally making course corrections along the way where you know disparities exist and by actively seeking solutions to address inequities.
- Take the following measures to ensure that you do not exacerbate disparities:
- Focus on upstream solutions.
- Ask communities for their input.
- Monitor data and take corrective action when issues arise.
- Ensure that new technologies align with the evidence base, which should include the population you serve.
4 | Extend the focus outside the hospital walls.
Since most health care is delivered in physicians’ offices, it is important to support ambulatory care teams’ actions to drive health equity.
- Community health centers' care delivery model incorporates many tactics to advance health equity for patients and communities, making them good role models for other ambulatory practice sites.
- Front-line staff’s expertise and relationships with patients in physician office settings are critical to successfully engaging patients and communities to drive health equity.