President Barack Obama said, “If you're walking down the right path and you're willing to keep walking, eventually you'll make progress.” 

Those words serve as a reminder to continue on the journey toward creating the just society we all want to live in.

But it’s always instructive to ask follow-up questions, like “How much progress is your hospital or health system making toward ensuring equitable care for all people within the communities you serve?”

This month is National Minority Health Month, a month dedicated to raising awareness about the health gaps that continue to exist and impact individuals from racial/ethnic groups along racial and ethnic lines.

But this isn’t news: these disparities in health care are well-documented. After years of work and advocacy, research continues to show Black and Brown communities are at greater risks of receiving fewer resources and less access to high-quality care. And though we’ve learned a great deal from the available data, we’re still having some of the same conversations. There’s a substantial gap between knowing and doing.

Even further, the COVID-19 public health emergency has highlighted significant gaps in our health care system for Black, Latino, Native American communities, and other communities of color. It’s only built upon an otherwise substantial body of evidence. Now, we must turn what we know into action, to close the so-called “knowing-doing gap.”

The AHA and its Institute for Diversity and Health Equity (IFDHE) are leading such efforts to spur action across the field in support of organizations on their health equity journey. Last month, the IFDHE team launched the Health Equity Roadmap (equity.aha.org), an innovative framework to support hospitals and health systems in their efforts to become more equitable organizations and dismantle structural barriers to health and overall well-being.

As participants in the roadmap, organizations will complete an assessment and obtain access to curated, actionable resources that can aid in mobilization across the equity continuum; they’ll also benefit from a virtual online community to engage with others on the journey.

Additionally, the AHA will host its 2022 Accelerating Health Equity Conference in Cleveland from May 10-12. The conference — a joint effort by the IFDHE and AHA’s Community Health Improvement network — will advance a shared mission to close health equity gaps by building strategic hospital-community partnerships and developing and sustaining diversity and inclusion across the field. The conference will bring the Health Equity Roadmap to life through a series of sessions centered on the roadmap’s six Levers of Transformation. These Levers help organizations understand their capabilities to improve their performance, what actions they may take and how they can advance on their journey — moving from knowing to doing.

Taking action is critical to progress. In order to eliminate health disparities and close the “knowing-doing” gap, there must be movement beyond our words, beyond our understanding of the literature and data. The Health Equity Roadmap provides the tools and resources to mobilize beyond intent and reminds each of us that equity in care is not only the right thing to do, but also achievable.

Joy Lewis is AHA’s senior vice president of health equity strategies. She also is the executive director of the AHA’s Institute for Diversity and Health Equity.

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