By Gene Woods

April is National Minority Health Month, dedicated to raising awareness about health disparities that continue to affect minority populations–and to accelerating health care equity. Nearly 1,500 hospitals and health systems are participating in the AHA’s #123forEquity Pledge to Eliminate Health Care Disparities.

MaineGeneral Health in Augusta is among those health care organizations, working to ensure every person in every community receives high-quality, equitable and safe care. The 192-bed health system continues to improve data collection efforts, particularly for ethnicity, language preference, and gender identity.

Collecting this information helps clinical and nonclinical staff ensure patients receive access to resources that will enhance the patient-provider relationship. For example, MGH is working to translate health care documents into Arabic, Chinese and Spanish, including the Patient Rights and Responsibilities pamphlet, general consent form, and some financial information. Cultural competency training also is emphasized at the health system.

In the fall of 2016, MGH leaders participated in training related to conscious and unconscious bias through storytelling with re-enactment of life events around this subject by the Portland Playback Theater group, many of whom have health care backgrounds. Leaders shared this education with their teams and created a plan to help manage unconscious bias by adopting two proactive behaviors or norms.

For more information about MaineGeneral Health’s equity of care initiatives, contact Steven Diaz, M.D., chief medical officer, at steve.diaz@mainegeneral.org. For more information about the AHA’s #123forEquity Pledge and to participate, visit the Equity of Care website at equityofcare.org.

Woods is chairman of the AHA and president and CEO of Carolinas HealthCare System in Charlotte, N.C. 

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