Word is spreading that boosting employee diversity and reducing patient disparities can help with the field’s goal of targeting the health of a patient population.

But progress has not been quick, as demonstrated in a recent survey conducted for the Institute for Diversity in Health Management, which showed a lack of advancement in hiring minorities and managing disparities. The survey results were disappointing to some, with Richard de Filippi, chair of the board for the American Hospital Association-affiliated IFD calling for a re-evaluation of the field’s approach.

But one of the hurdles hospitals face in their quest to boost diversity and reduce disparities is the lack of broad understanding as to what should be done in that regard. Even those that have taken the step of naming a chief diversity officer or someone like that may be slow out of the gate, in part because of the relatively small number of experienced health care diversity officers.

That’s where an educational and experiential certificate program offered by the IFD can help. The 12-month curriculum, called the Certificate in Diversity Management in Health Care program, is led and taught by experienced diversity officers who assist students with creating a custom strategic plan they can take back to their place of employment. The certificate program's registration is open until Oct. 10, though space is limited.

"I think this fellowship will be most valuable to those individuals who are charged with establishing a vision and executing a strategic plan," says Juana Slade, a faculty member who is director and chief diversity officer for AnMed Health in Anderson, S.C.

Having a strategic plan and incorporating those goals into the broader hospital strategic plan would help with the effort regarding disparities and diversity. The survey indicates that just 22 percent of hospitals include in its broader goals the use of reports to measure progress in addressing disparities, and just 25 percent include the use of reports to measure progress on diversity in management.

Even health systems with experience and a strong commitment to the cause, such as Christus Health, are struggling to get their employees fully behind the effort. If those without that visible commitment from top managers can struggle, it will be even more difficult for those that don't emphasize the goals with their employees.

"There needs to be an overt effort by leaders and the board to really get a sense of what is happening in the area of diversity and inclusion,” says faculty member Wayne Boatwright, systems vice president of cultural diversity at Meridian Health in Neptune, N.J.

"And I think the diversity leader has to be challenged with a strategic plan that talks about how they can impact those areas," says Boatwright. For example, there are things that can be done to reduce disparities that also might help with other areas of focus by top management, such as reducing readmissions, he says.

"We can provide solutions in a space that maybe they were not that aware of before."

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