As the only National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center in Florida, the Moffitt Cancer Center has placed a premium on health equity for the past 20 years. The cancer center’s leadership recognized that “cancer doesn’t discriminate, so we’ve got to be prepared,” says Cathy Grant, senior director of Moffitt Diversity. “We try to attack care disparities from multiple vantage points.” Moffitt is an honoree in the American Hospital Association's Equity of Care Award.

One of the Tampa-based institution’s initiatives is the Disparities Dashboard,  launched two years ago by its Cultural and Linguistic Competence Steering Committee, composed of physicians, nurses, patients and other key stakeholders. The dashboard uses clinical metrics stratified by race, ethnicity, gender and language preference to identify, monitor and address care outcome disparities. The dashboard currently reports on advance directives, sexual orientation and gender identity, and patient satisfaction. In the future, the dashboard will also include pain assessment, prostate cancer bone scans and venous thromboembolisms as new data become available.

Moffitt chose those measures because, as a specialized institution, it has a narrower range of outcomes data on which to draw, Grant says. “We had to find metrics that had enough patient volume and experience to see patterns,” she says. “The data drive us to continually consider the questions about the patient’s experience we want to answer. The patient experience begins as soon as [that patient] walks in the door — and none of us know what part of that experience is most important to each individual.”

With that in mind, Moffitt takes a person-centered approach to cultural competence, promoting a philosophy that the patient is always the best resource for understanding his or her cultural perspective. The cancer center emphasizes education for its team members. With support from executive leaders, every member of Moffitt’s management team has completed diversity and inclusion education. Team members are trained and supported in assessing cross-cultural issues with patients, exploring their illnesses and treatment beliefs among other concerns. And because cancer treatment can be especially complicated to explain, Moffitt is prepared when language differences may pose a barrier to optimal care.

“We have a fantastic team of certified medical interpreters — we use them for complex clinical conversations when complete patient understanding is needed,” Grant says. That dedication extends into the operating suite, where Grant says one medical interpreter was included as a part of the medical team for an awake brain procedure. The medical interpreter spoke with a non-English-speaking patient during the operation so the surgeon could ensure that the patient would retain language skills after surgery.

The cancer center’s commitment to care equity is equally apparent outside its walls. The Moffitt Program for Outreach Wellness Education and Resources, or M-POWER, works to raise awareness about cancer prevention and the importance of early detection through multiple community outlets. M-POWER focuses on low-income, rural, non-English-speaking, and racial or ethnic minority populations that are underrepresented in the care continuum. M-POWER reaches more than 6,000 Tampa area residents annually, including connecting uninsured men to prostate and skin cancer screenings and more than 500 uninsured women to mammography screenings at no cost to the patient.

One popular avenue for promoting cancer awareness among women is a program named ShopTalk: Health Tips for Women, which gives stylists in local beauty salons materials and guidelines to help them raise cancer awareness, explain screenings and offer healthy lifestyle education to their clients. Women study a web-based cancer education module while they get their hair done, and then stylists can answer their questions and connect clients to services such as the voucher program for mammograms. Some stylists have even been trained in how to identify potential skin cancers on the scalp.

“The salon stylists are trusted advisers in the community, and they have a relationship with their clientele,” Grant says. “Taking the message of cancer prevention, screening and healthy lifestyles to the community is a longtime commitment for us — but in the salons, the trust already exists.”

The American Hospital Association's Equity of Care Award is presented annually to hospitals or care systems that are noteworthy leaders and examples to the field in the area of equitable care. Honorees demonstrate a high level of success in reducing health care disparities and promote diversity in leadership and staff within their organizations.

The goals of this award are:

  • Recognize outstanding efforts among hospitals and care systems to advance equity of care to all patients.
  • Accelerate progress of the National Call to Action to Eliminate Health Care Disparities and its stated goals and milestones.
  • Spread lessons learned and progress toward health care equity and the promotion of diversity.