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How Health Systems Can Recommit to Addressing Health Equity in the U.S.

12 Sep 2023 6:29 PM | Deborah Hodges (Administrator)

Over the past several years, many health care organizations — especially in response to the Black Lives Matter movement and the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and others — made strong public declarations of their commitment to advance equity and racial justice. [ Beckers]

This attention was long overdue. Some have described this as the largest groundswell of energy focused on racial justice in decades.

This racial reckoning touched every industry, and health care systems were no exception. Yet, while many companies rushed to hire chief diversity officers, chief equity officers, and similar positions several years ago, the Wall Street Journal recently reported that many organizations are now shedding these positions or rolling back their initial commitments. In too many cases, positions created to advance equity were neither adequately resourced nor given clear and specific objectives. As a result, the top-tier talent who filled these roles were not set up to achieve the results that people have hoped for, leading to much frustration.

This is a troubling development and should be seen as a call to recommit ourselves to advancing equity, diversity, and inclusion. Some organizations may simply be recalibrating or rethinking how they want to do this work. But others may be abandoning these equity leadership roles and initiatives because the effort is more difficult, more complex, and takes longer than they expected. Instead of pulling back, individual organizations should consider how taking part in coordinated and collective action could strengthen their anti-racism and equity efforts.

Don’t Go It Alone

The Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI), the organization that I lead, has joined with the American Medical Association (AMA), in collaboration with Race Forward and a growing list of organizations, to create the Rise to Health Coalition. The Coalition brings together individuals and organizations committed to equity and justice within the health ecosystem to build, lead, and advance shared solutions and collective actions to transform and strengthen health care. We have invited a coalition of individual practitioners, health care organizations, professional societies, payers, and pharmaceutical, research, and biotechnology organizations to deliver more equitable care outcomes to patients, families, and entire communities. 

The theory behind the Rise to Health Coalition is that no individual or single organization can advance equity and justice alone, and three years into our equity commitments, many organizations are now at an inflection point. This is neither the first nor the last time we will face such a moment. But, as we have in the past, we must now commit ourselves anew to taking action with colleagues and communities to build a future where health and care are better, fairer, and more equitable. 



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