The Time to Act on Health Equity Is Now: Turning Collective Awareness Into Action
Editor’s note: Sg2 Associate Principal Karyl Kopaskie contributed to this post.
In our previous post, we discussed health inequities in our current health care landscape, providing some examples of how the negative impacts of social determinants of health can contribute to undesirable health outcomes and lead to significant health disparities. Now, we would like to focus on how health systems can be more aware of these disparities and turn that awareness into action.
Health equity can be defined as “the state in which everyone has the opportunity to attain full health potential and no one is disadvantaged from achieving this potential because of social position or any other socially defined circumstance.” While achieving health equity is a societal undertaking, Vizient believes it and its members have an important role in advancing health equity within the health system walls and in the communities they serve.
Advancing health equity is both a moral and business imperative for health systems; first, however, health systems must reckon with their contributions to health inequities. From bias in health care delivery to strategic decisions that disproportionately distribute care in certain areas, health systems can perpetuate health inequities across their organizations and communities. Recognizing and being accountable for this can realign our organizations toward advancing health equity.
A good early step on this path is to examine health system clinical and administrative data to unearth disparities within the health care system. Similarly, health systems can examine community-level data to unearth disparities in life expectancy, health outcomes, and health status between populations and communities, and rely on social determinants of health data to help understand the drivers of these inequities. Furthermore, patient and community member perspectives can provide important context and insights on areas of need, available resources and drivers of inequities. This will help the health system better define goals and develop effective strategies for advancing health equity.
In turn, health systems should share their findings with the people who have been impacted by health inequities; this transparency can help build awareness but also trust. And as health systems build their awareness of health inequities in their organizations and communities, they must also build plans of action—making sure to include steps to address the root causes of health inequities, namely, structural determinants of health such as structural racism and economic deprivation. By working with patients and community members, from awareness to action, health systems can begin to make tangible progress on improving health and prosperity for all patients and communities.
Health systems can advance health equity through several fronts, including, but not limited to:
- Expanding the availability of care in areas that have historically been deprived of it
- Adopting policies that enable better access to care, such as proactive and straightforward processes for determining patient eligibility for charity care
- Identifying and addressing disparities in the delivery and quality of care between different populations
- Increasing the diversity of the health system workforce, from clinicians to the C-suite and board, as well as greater representation from surrounding communities
- Using the health system’s supplier purchasing power to source from local and diverse suppliers
- Investing in community health improvement resources, especially for marginalized populations
- Partnering with key community stakeholders to eradicate inequities outside of the health system’s walls
- Advocating for policies that materially improve conditions for patients and communities, such as access to affordable housing, clean air, healthy food and reliable transportation
Given its expansive membership and wide array of membership solutions, Vizient has set a vision to support all members on their journey to achieve health equity and improve community health.
Specifically, Vizient has committed to:
- Focus on actionable solutions that members can utilize to make measurable progress toward health equity
- Leverage member insight and agile processes to rapidly test new ideas and products
- Collaborate across internal domains and teams to support members on their journey to advance health equity
- Provide consistent, coherent messages to members on how health systems can work to achieve and maintain health equity
- Reflect the learnings and guidance we provide to members in our own business practices—“walk the walk” with our members
As a member-driven, member-owned organization, Vizient exists to serve its members—which exist to serve communities—and has helped members share leading practices for over 40 years, allowing their organizations to overcome challenges faster than they could alone. Vizient is committed to providing health systems with expert-led, analytics-enabled insights that can inform the development and execution of strategies to advance health equity. Through analytics that unearth health inequities and their social drivers; health system best practices to advance health equity; and a community contracting program that enables health systems to take action on improving a community’s economic conditions, Vizient can serve as a key partner in catalyzing our members’ journey from awareness to action.
Stay tuned for more updates on steps Vizient is taking to support our members’ health equity journey. If you have any questions, ideas or information to share, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Health Inequities and the Negative Impacts of Social Determinants of Health
- Sg2 Perspectives Podcast episode 79: How to Build a Diverse, Inclusive Culture When Health Equity Is a Strategic Priority, but Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast
- Addressing Social Determinants of Health During COVID-19 and Beyond: Leveraging Collaboration and Partnerships
- Inequity, Race, Social Determinants and Health Care: COVID-19 Provides a Call to Action
- The Social Determinants of Health: Taking Action Beyond the System of CARE