Back in 2015, the American Hospital Association (AHA) elevated the issue of ensuring that every person in every community receives high-quality, equitable and safe patient care. Their objective was to eliminate health and health care disparities that continue to exist for many racially, ethnically and culturally diverse individuals.
The AHA launched its #123forEquity Pledge Campaign. It builds on the efforts of the National Call to Action to Eliminate Health Care Disparities – a joint effort of the AHA, American College of Healthcare Executives, Association of American Medical Colleges, Catholic Health Association of the United States and America’s Essential Hospitals – and asks hospital and health system leaders to begin taking action to accelerate progress on the following areas:
- Increasing the collection and use of race, ethnicity, language preference and other socio-demographic data
- Increasing cultural competency training
- Increasing diversity in leadership and governance
- Improve and strengthen community partnerships
Hospitals and health systems also can take the pledge and commit to working on efforts within their organization or in the community related to health equity and diversity and inclusion even if the efforts do not fit clearly under one of the pledge goals listed above.
Significant progress has been made in four years. As of last month, 1762 CEOs have signed the pledge. Has your CEO made the commitment? Use the “Zoom” tool to find your state. Click on your state to see all of the organizations that have pledged.
If your healthcare organization has committed to the #123 Equity Pledge to Act, the first area; data collection, is likely the action most consistently executed. Gathering data about the diversity in our communities is essential. In fact, data collection is where the cultural competence cycle begins and ends. Data begins the cycle by helping providers better understand and serve clients. It closes the cycle by providing a reflection of progress and areas for improvement. Collecting data on race, ethnicity and language, as well as other markers of diversity like disability or socioeconomic status and sexual orientation, not only allows agencies to meet federal or state requirements, but can also help programs identify and prioritize needs, such as cultural competence skills. Data are essential to understanding client needs, planning health services, identifying disparities and benchmarking.
Progress on the other three actions to accelerate health equity is going somewhat slower:
- Increasing cultural competency training: Most of the large highly ranked hospitals and healthcare systems have introduced cultural competence training for their employees. For example; in the first year following the launch, Cleveland Clinic was recognized among others as a 2016 #123 Equity of Care Award Winner. However, while the vast majority of healthcare organizations have a publicized commitment to culturally competent patient-care, many have not introduced cultural competence training to their staff. Ask your Human Resources department if training is forthcoming. Want to deliver your own cultural competence mini-workshop? You can!
- Increasing diversity in leadership and governance: Most healthcare organizations have some combination of the following words (or variations of the words) in their mission, vision, values, or goal statements: diversity, multiculturalism, global, access, inclusive, equity, opportunity, outreach, diﬀerence, and tolerance on their website and fact sheets. But relatively few have articulated and implemented a strategy or structure to support such aspirations. Equity, diversity and inclusion leadership commitment and governance structure are described in a diversity & inclusion strategic plan. No formal strategic plan for your organization? Take the initiative to seek management approval to write your diversity & inclusion strategic plan.
- Improve and strengthen community partnerships: The AHA provides a guide featuring detailed descriptions of hospital-community partnerships from across the United States that have made substantial improvement addressing priority health needs in their communities. Volunteering to offer; leadership, educational programs and skills-based services to local and regional community organizations is one of the greatest contributions we can make. Personally, I’ve found community organizations such as the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce Health Council and Florida Diversity Council Jacksonville Advisory Board effective and rewarding vehicles for promoting health equity in my community.
Take a deeper dive and learn more about the #123 Equity of Care pledge.
CEOs Who Take a Pledge to Improve Diversity and Inclusion see better results. Why? They take action–learning what works and what doesn’t. They impact their culture, workforce, workplace, marketplace and communities served, with positive thoughtful intention—that is built to last.