Chair File: Advancing Health Equity — Now
“Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health is the most shocking and inhuman.”
In the 55 years since Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke those words, our nation has made some progress to ensure all individuals have an equal opportunity to reach their healthiest life — but we still have a long way to go.
The COVID-19 pandemic has illuminated deep health disparities across our communities. We must now seize this opportunity to take actions to address systemic inequities that have led to disparities in care outcomes for some patient populations.
The AHA’s Community Health Improvement and Institute for Diversity and Health Equity are co-leading the Accelerating Health Equity virtual conference, March 16-18. It’s a timely and important opportunity for health care leaders and professionals to deploy evidence-based strategies, proven resources and promising practices that can lead to sustained change.
The conference offers sessions on getting to the root of health disparities and driving organizational commitment and accountability to achieve health equity. Other sessions focus on improving community health and advancing diversity, inclusion and equity initiatives — all by “aligning for action” inside and outside your organization. If you haven’t yet, you can still register and participate in the conference.
The AHA continues to develop and share resources on health equity with the field. Most recently:
- A new webpage to help hospitals and health systems better engage with communities of color and share accessible information about the equity issues in COVID-19 testing, treatment and vaccination.
- A recent AHA briefing for congressional staff on health equity, featuring leaders from three health systems discussing how their organizations are working with their communities to deliver high-quality, culturally responsive care.
- The AHA Trustee Match program, which connects diverse affiliate leaders of the National Urban League and UnidosUS with hospital and health system executives to promote their participation on health care governing boards.
At Providence, last year we committed $50 million to address racial disparities and improve health equity in our communities. We’ll listen to and partner with our local communities to understand and reduce structural, racial and cultural barriers. Our strategic priorities also include creating a more equitable and inclusive workplace for our caregivers, and ensuring health equity is integrated throughout our advocacy agenda.
The work to collaborate with our communities, build strategic partnerships, and develop and sustain diversity and inclusion efforts needs our full focus today. We also must ensure the ongoing commitment and accountability of our organizations. Together, hospitals and health systems have a unique opportunity to help build a society of healthier and equitable communities for all — tapping into the dedication of our vast workforce of healers.
Rod Hochman, M.D.