As the U.S. continues moving toward a majority-minority population, the need to identify, address and eliminate health care disparities is increasing. Although the role of the physician will be critical for this effort to work, we know it will take everyone’s focus to make meaningful progress. That’s why the American Hospital Association (AHA) in 2011 joined the Association of American Medical Colleges, American College of Healthcare Executives, Catholic Health Association of the United States and America’s Essential Hospitals in a national call to action to eliminate health care disparities.
To meet the changing needs of our communities, hospitals and health systems are working hard to make sure that every individual receives the highest quality of care. To achieve that goal as our nation becomes increasingly diverse, we must redouble our efforts to identify and eliminate disparities in care. We are focused on three core areas: increasing collection and use of race, ethnicity and language preference data; increasing cultural competency training; and increasing diversity in health care governance and leadership. Areas we believe provide the greatest opportunities for hospitals and health systems to increase the equity of the care they provide to patients. We have also publicly set goals and milestones in each area to further cement our commitment and hone are focus collectively.
The AHA recently launched the #123forEquity Pledge to Act Campaign. The campaign builds on the National Call to Action to Eliminate Health Care Disparities. The AHA first announced the #123forEquity Pledge to Act Campaign this summer at the Health Forum Leadership Summit, and more than 700 hospitals have signed the pledge already. In addition, a number of partner organizations have endorsed the campaign. We are asking you to:
- TAKE THE PLEDGE – Pledge to achieve the three areas of the Call to Action within the next 12 months.
- TAKE ACTION – Implement strategies that are reflected in your strategic plan and supported by your board and leadership. Provide quarterly updates on progress to AHA and your board in order to track progress nationally.
- TELL OTHERS – Achieve the goals and be recognized. Tell your story and share your learnings with others in conference calls and other educational venues including social media to accelerate progress collectively.
Is your hospital on the list? You can check at www.equityofcare.org/pledge/pledging.shtml, where hospitals that have made the pledge are listed by state.
If your hospital is not on the list, talk to your CEO and board about your equity initiatives and taking the pledge. Addressing disparities is no longer just about morality, ethics and social justice: It is essential for performance excellence and improved community health. As we endeavor to resolve the social, economic and environmental determinants that affect health and their correlations with specific health outcomes, a focus on equity in care will be vital. We are also keenly aware that addressing the needs of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community and people with disabilities, including individuals experiencing mental health and substance abuse disorders, is equally important. Hospitals as a field have made progress, but more needs to be done, quickly. Equity of care is central to quality improvement and the business imperative of your work.
We’ll continue rolling out the campaign to all hospitals over the next several months. Our goal is to have 1,000 hospitals sign the pledge by the end of the year. Add your health care organization to a growing list of leaders taking action today by visiting www.equityofcare.org/pledge.
Paramount to the campaign will be demonstrating the link between quality, equity and collaboration, with diversity and inclusion as the cornerstone to accelerate progress. These are pillars that the Institute has championed and continues to promote in all of its work.
To help the field with these renewed efforts to eliminate health care disparities the Institute for Diversity in Health Management as an affiliate of the AHA has developed a number of resources, including a toolkit that offers a user-friendly “how-to” guide to help accelerate the elimination of health care disparities and ensure hospital leadership and governance reflect the communities they serve. The toolkit contains best practices and resources that can assist all hospitals – whether you are just beginning this work or are far along on your journey.
The time is right for action and we stand ready to support you! Add your organization today and join a growing list of leaders across the country committed to achieve high quality, equitable care for all patients served.
Tomás León, MBA
President & CEO
Institute for Diversity in Health Management