AHA Recognizes Three Hospitals & Health Systems With The 2023 Carolyn Boone Lewis Equity of Care Award

Hospitals and Health Systems Honored for Advancing Diversity, Inclusion and Health Equity

WASHINGTON (July 12, 2023) — The American Hospital Association’s (AHA) Institute for Diversity and Health Equity (IFDHE) today announced that Meritus Health in Hagerstown, Md., Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick, N.J., and Rapid City Hospital (Monument Health), in Rapid City, S.D., will receive the 2023 Carolyn Boone Lewis Equity of Care (EOC) Award. The awards will be presented during the AHA’s Leadership Summit in Seattle, July 16-18.

The Carolyn Boone Lewis Equity of Care Award is an annual recognition of outstanding efforts among hospitals and health systems to advance equity of care to all patients and to spread lessons learned and progress toward diversity, inclusion and health equity. Lewis was the first African-American and first hospital trustee to chair the AHA Board.

“The AHA’s Carolyn Boone Lewis Equity of Care award is given to these hospitals and health systems for engaging in exceptional and transformative efforts to reduce health disparities and other inequities within their communities,” said Rick Pollack, AHA’s President and CEO. “This year’s honorees have shown exemplary commitment to understanding and improving the lives of patients and employees of diverse populations through advisory councils, comprehensive data collection, community engagement and outreach and staff training, to give just a few examples of their important work.”


2023 Equity of Care Award, Transforming Winner — Recognizes a hospital system that is implementing strategies to influence equity in the surrounding community ecosystem.

Meritus Health was selected as the 2023 Equity of Care Award, Transforming winner for creating and implementing strategies that influence equity within its community. To help eliminate disparities and inequalities, Meritus Health formed the Leadership in Equity and Diversity (LEAD) council. During its first two years, LEAD created a health equity report and dashboard, workgroups to improve health equity through identified measures and coordinated cultural competency and unconscious bias training for all staff.

Over the years, Meritus Health has taken steps to implement equitable data collection practices to identify and mitigate health disparities present in its patient populations. Meritus uses its Health Equity Report as an opportunity to demonstrate transparency within the community and region it serves. Specifically, its Improving Health Equity Measures (IHEM) workgroups related to pre-term births realized significant improvement these last several years. In addition, Meritus Health has put into practice specific initiatives designed to enhance leadership diversity and representation for current employees and potential new hires. For example, Meritus Health implemented and continues to enforce the ‘Rooney rule’ for all new leadership hires. The rule aims to increase the number of ethnically diverse candidates who are taken to the final round of interviews for leadership positions.


2023 Equity of Care Award, Emerging Winner — Recognizes a hospital that is leveraging the Health Equity Roadmap resources to dismantle structural barriers in their care delivery system and the communities they serve.


Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital (RWJUH), an RWJBarnabas Health facility, was selected as the Equity of Care Award, Emerging winner for dismantling structural barriers in its care delivery system and the community it serves. RWJUH launched a Health Equity Department to refine its organizational equity strategies, strengthen the delivery of equitable, person-centered and culturally sensitive care to diverse populations and foster a workforce culture of equity and inclusion. To support its community engagement efforts, RWJUH embraces representation and direct feedback from community leaders through advisory councils, community events and growing community relationships.

To assist in its efforts to improve data collection of Race, Ethnicity, and Language (REaL) and Sexual Orientation/Gender Identity (SOGI) data, an Equity/Population Health steering committee was developed in 2022. Through this initiative, RWJUH is focused on improving REaL electronic health record data completeness. RWJUH also has established various policies to create an environment that is safe and inclusive. For example, RWJUH ensures culturally sensitive care to the LGBTQ+ community having implemented a comprehensive operational model that comprises a Gender Center, established in partnership with Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, allowing for services including hormone therapy and other therapeutic models leading to equitable outcomes in care allowing for services including hormone therapy and other therapeutic models leading to equitable outcomes in care. Additionally, RWJUH works closely with its community partners, including federally qualified health centers such as the Eric B. Chandler Health Center at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School to help patients who would traditionally receive their primary care services from the Emergency Department identify a primary care provider within the community. The model has been expanded to include postpartum and newborn care to ensure that all services are properly coordinated within the allotted time post-discharge. RWJUH’s Health Equity Team also provides breast care referrals for screenings, language support services, medical appointments, discharge calls, and navigation services among others. These services are provided through dedicated community medical programs staffed by multilingual health navigators.


2023 Equity of Care Award, Small/Rural Hospital Excellence WinnerRecognizes a hospital or health system that has demonstrated excellence in advancing health equity in rural or small communities. 


Monument Health Rapid City Hospital was selected as the Equity of Care, Small/Rural Hospital Excellence Award winner for demonstrating excellence in using quantitative and qualitative data to address disparities and improve patient health quality. Since signing the AHA Equity of Care Pledge in 2015, Monument Health Rapid City Hospital has consistently collected REaL data at a capture rate above 98 percent. It has also collated other pertinent information resulting in the ability to strategically focus on the needs of its patients. Furthermore, Monument Health Rapid City Hospital formed a Health Equity Team that analyzes data, thereby empowering a way to develop and specifically tailor a care plan that includes additional monitoring and an increased frequency of discharge phone calls to reduce readmission rates.


Recognizing its unique patient population, Monument Health Rapid City Hospital engages and collaborates with its community populations. Caregivers complete cultural awareness training as part of their orientation and the workforce is highly engaged in ongoing educational sessions. Since 2016, cultural awareness seminars have been held to understand and address health disparities that affect Native Americans. A Health Equity Seminar was added in 2022, where expert physicians presented data and clinical findings on specific medical conditions such as peripheral artery disease, congenital syphilis, cancer detection and research impacting the Native American communities.


Contact:        Colin Milligan, cmilligan@aha.org

                      Ben Teicher, bteicher@aha.org


About the American Hospital Association (AHA)

The American Hospital Association (AHA) is a not-for-profit association of health care provider organizations and individuals that are committed to the health improvement of their communities. The AHA advocates on behalf of our nearly 5,000 member hospitals, health systems and other health care organizations, our clinician partners – including more than 270,000 affiliated physicians, 2 million nurses and other caregivers – and the 43,000 health care leaders who belong to our professional membership groups. Founded in 1898, the AHA provides insight and education for health care leaders and is a source of information on health care issues and trends. For more information, visit the AHA website at aha.org.


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