February is Black History Month, a time to honor the rich history, culture and achievements of African Americans and to recommit ourselves to creating a healthier future and better health outcomes for America's diverse communities. 
 
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the 2015 life expectancy for blacks is 76.1 years compared to 79.8 years for non-Hispanic whites. Likewise, the death rates from heart disease, stroke, cancer, asthma, influenza, pneumonia, diabetes, HIV/AIDS, and homicide are all higher for African Americans than for white Americans.
 
Knowing this, the AHA's Institute for Diversity and Health Equity (IFDHE) continues to lead efforts aimed at addressing disparities in health care and helping hospitals and health systems support leadership and governance to reflect the communities they serve. In honor of Black History Month, I'm proud to share those efforts with you. 
 
They include:

  • Hospital Community Cooperative: A program supported by the Aetna Foundation that encourages hospital and community group collaboration by deploying place-based interventions that empower action to advance health equity.
  • Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois Collaboration: A one-year grant program that supports hospitals in their efforts to eliminate health care disparities and ensure individuals in every community receive safe, equitable and high-quality care.
  • Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Grant: A grant awarded to IFDHE focused on building the capacity of hospitals and health systems seeking to initiate and sustain community-based partnerships advancing diversity, inclusion and health equity.
  • AHA Strategic Alliances: Partnerships formed with the National Urban League and UnidosUS aimed at advancing health equity, diversity and inclusion through our trustee match program as well as collaborations on national policy discussions

As we celebrate Black History Month, let's come together and recognize the challenges and opportunities we face – as an organization and as a nation – as we seek to create healthy communities for all by removing cultural barriers to care, ending disparities and promoting health equity. 

View more of our resources advancing health equity, diversity and inclusion at www.ifdhe.aha.org

Jay Bhatt, D.O., is IFDHE interim president and CEO and AHA chief medical officer and senior vice president.

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