America’s hospitals and health systems are working hard to ensure that every person in every community receives high-quality, equitable and safe care.
To do that, we must eliminate health and health care disparities that continue to exist for far too many diverse individuals.
We know the statistics. Latino Americans are 65 percent more likely to be diabetic than whites. African-Americans make up more than one-third of patients receiving dialysis for kidney failure — despite representing only 13 percent of the overall population. Nearly half of all African-Americans are not screened for colorectal cancer at the recommended time. And there are many others.
A number of factors contribute to these inequities, including lack of insurance coverage; historical discrimination; lack of culturally competent providers; and the need to address the social determinants of health, which determine 80 percent of the reasons for using health care services.
Ending health care disparities and advancing diversity is a priority for the American Hospital Association. Last year, we launched the #123forEquity Pledge to Act campaign to Eliminate Health Care Disparities to accelerate progress on this critical work.
The pledge asks hospital leaders to begin taking action on three areas we believe will have the greatest impact in ensuring equitable care for all persons in every community. Those areas include:
- Increasing the collection and use of race, ethnicity, language preference and other sociodemographic data.
- Increasing cultural competence training.
- Increasing diversity in leadership and governance.
We’re proud that more than 1,200 hospitals and health systems have taken the pledge. They are working closely with their governing boards and community partners to develop innovative programs and strategies that are resulting in improved care and outcomes for diverse individuals.
While this demonstrates some progress, we must do better. Pinpointing why disparities in care exist — and eliminating them — must be a priority in every health care setting in every community across the country.
Providing equity of care for every individual and advancing diversity and inclusion across the field are the right things to do. There also is a strong and compelling business case and societal benefit for this work, so it’s the smart thing to do for hospitals and health systems.
To help the field accelerate progress, the AHA is redoubling our efforts on the #123forEquity campaign.
We are developing new resources to help organizations — whether they are just beginning their health equity journey or they are deeply engrained in this work. We are sharing best practices and lessons learned from organizations that have taken the pledge and are making progress in achieving the three goals.
And we are continuing to urge those hospitals and health systems that have not taken the #123forEquity pledge to join the campaign.
While the challenge is great, I’m confident of success. Together, we can ensure equitable, safe care for all individuals and eliminate health care disparities.
For more information on the #123forEquity campaign, visit www.equityofcare.org.
Rick Pollack is president and CEO of the American Hospital Association.