Can you tell if a person is healthy just by looking at him or her? No, obviously not. Someone can look perfectly healthy but have many underlying medical issues.

Equity of care (the elimination of disparities and the promotion of diversity) is the same. You can’t tell if your organization is providing it just because you have great staff, good overall quality indicators or the best intentions. To know what disparities exist, the key is to begin by diagnosing where your organization stands.

Why is this important? Because while overall progress has been made in the industry, significant gaps remain. To name just a few, according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Hispanics, or Latinos, receive worse care than non-Hispanic whites for about 60 percent of core measures. Other studies have shown that African-Americans are two to four times more likely than whites to have diabetes-related amputations. And significant disparities still exist relative to inpatient care for minorities with heart failure, for example.

I think you would agree that we must do better; the cost in terms of lives and resources is staggering.

As an American Hospital Association board member, I have the privilege of serving with an outstanding array of health care leaders and visionaries at the forefront of redefining how we deliver care. In fact, at a recent board meeting, they recommitted to the call to action goals established in 2011 by the American College of Healthcare Executives, AHA, Association of American Medical Colleges, Catholic Health Association of the United States and America’s Essential Hospitals as a means to eliminate health care disparities.

Specifically, those goals are to:

Increase the collection and use of race, ethnicity and language preference data

Increase cultural competency training

Increase diversity in governance and leadership

So, where do you begin?

Choose a quality data measure to stratify by race, ethnicity and language preference (CMS core measures are a great starting point, or an HCAHPS question). Then, determine if a health care disparity exists and, if so, implement a plan to address this gap. Next, begin training your staff in cultural competency. Concurrently, have a dialogue with your board and leadership team on how you reflect the community you serve, and what actions can be taken to address any areas of concern. Lastly, and perhaps most important from a momentum standard, call five additional colleagues in the field to share your journey and enroll them in this effort.

The AHA stands ready to support any member on this journey through our many resources such as or the recently released equity of care toolkit ( that outlines the steps above with associated guides and further information. For those hospital leaders who are reading this article, I would ask that you pull up the compendium and get started. For those in other positions but also committed to these important goals, reach out to your colleagues at health care conferences, in the hallways of your facility, in your community or wherever relevant to spread the word, because progress can’t be made without your help.

The AHA vision is of a society of healthy communities, where all individuals reach their highest potential for health. That vision cannot be achieved if disparities in health care exist. You can make the difference in making that vision a reality. 

Eugene A. Woods, FACHE, is president and chief operating officer of CHRISTUS Health, Irving, Texas.

News from the AHA

AHA members to gather in D.C. in May for Annual Meeting

Some of the nation’s foremost political, policy, opinion and health care leaders will appear at the 2015 AHA Annual Membership Meeting May 3–6 in Washington, D.C. Representatives from the media will include Scott Simon, Ann Compton and Frank Sesno. The event will feature the investiture of Jonathan Perlin, M.D., as AHA chair, and the annual trip to Capitol Hill where association members meet with their respective congressional delegations. Registration is open now at

Guide offers hospital-based model for violence prevention

A new AHA guide offers hospital leaders a model for hospital-based violence intervention that can be tailored to each community’s unique needs. “As the location where many victims of violence seek medical treatment, hospitals and health care systems are uniquely positioned to address violence prevention,” the report notes. “There is ample evidence that shows hospital-based violence intervention programs reduce violence, save lives and decrease health care costs.” The guide was produced by the AHA’s Association for Community Health Improvement and Hospitals in Pursuit of Excellence initiative. Visit scans the employment landscape has released the 2015 Health Care Talent Acquisition Environmental Scan, an annual snapshot of the nation’s health care employment landscape. The comprehensive report helps health care employers and professionals to understand the challenges and opportunities facing the field — how it has changed over the past year and how it is expected to change in the future. Topics include a workforce overview, the multigenerational workforce, the impact of diversity in health care, the candidate’s perspective on recruitment, candidate supply and demand, and physician recruitment. For information, visit