Perspective: The Time is now for Diversity and Health Equity
COVID-19’s disproportionate impact on Black, Latino, Native Americans and other communities of color is well-documented and deeply troubling. It’s also the latest in a long history of health inequities and health disparities affecting racial minorities in our society.
As the health care field continues to more closely examine this longstanding injustice, hospitals and health systems across the country are integrating health equity goals and the elimination of disparities into their strategic playbooks.
Part of this strategy should include diverse representation among leadership, and specifically on hospital and health system boards so that they reflect the communities they serve. That’s why we’ve partnered with UnidosUS and the National Urban League to create the AHA’s Trustee Match Program.
The program aims to increase diversity and inclusion in health care governance by matching AHA member hospitals with vetted community leaders to improve diversity on hospital and health system boards.
In addition to the Trustee Match Program, AHA offers other tools and resources to advance these efforts. For example, the AHA’s Institute for Diversity and Health Equity recently released a toolkit with strategies for advancing diversity and inclusion in hospitals’ and health systems’ leadership and governance. The toolkit is the third in a four-part Health Equity Resource Series. Previous toolkits focused on the use of data to drive better care, as well as cultural humility and implicit bias training and education.
We are driving health equity efforts in many ways and are always open to new, innovative approaches. Most recently, AHA has led efforts with the Administration and other stakeholders to ensure equitable COVID-19 vaccine administration strategies are being pursued. We have also developed and launched an initiative in partnership with the Alliance for Innovation on Maternal Health to reduce maternal morbidity and mortality, which disproportionately impacts Black and Native American women and their families.
In addition, the AHA has been a strong defender of the Affordable Care Act to expand health care coverage, and helped lead efforts to expand “COBRA” coverage during the pandemic for those who lost health insurance as a result of economic conditions.
AHA’s vision remains what it has always been: a society of healthy communities where all individuals reach their highest potential for health. To achieve our vision, we must confront and eradicate structural racism, which — as the AHA Board recently reinforced in a statement — is clearly a serious public health threat.
As pillars of communities across America, hospitals and health systems are taking actions to:
- address our institutional policies through an equity lens;
- reexamine our relationships with the people we serve; and
- understand the impact of our past role in perpetuating conditions that foster inequities.
This commitment to health equity will continue to guide our actions. As AHA Board Chair Rod Hochman, M.D., puts it, “The work to collaborate with our communities, build strategic partnerships, and develop and sustain diversity and inclusion efforts needs our full focus today. We 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.”