The disparities highlighted by COVID-19 are startling. In Illinois, Blacks represent about 15% of the state, but 29% of people diagnosed with COVID-19. In Chicago, Blacks represent 32% of the population, but account for 72% of people who have died from coronavirus.
As a firm, we are dedicated to increasing diversity, equity, and inclusion, and these statistics represent why we do the work we do. While we believe “good” healthcare should be a fundamental human right, it is not. We know healthcare is driven by housing status, skin color, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, insurance status, education, accent, employment, and income, among other diversity dimensions.
We also know disparities show up across myriad health conditions and outcomes. Blacks/African Americans account for a higher proportion of new HIV diagnoses compared to other races/ethnicities. In 2018, Blacks/African Americans made up 13% of the US but accounted for 42% of the 37,832 new HIV diagnoses in the United States. The rate of death among Black patients diagnosed with colon cancer is 40% higher than that among White patients. We could go on.
Many researchers, policy makers, healthcare professionals and others talk about increasing health equities to reduce disparities. While we agree and even focus on this point in our training and coaching, we have broadened health equity to healthcare equity in our practice. For Exeter, healthcare equity expands the conversation beyond the patients our clients treat to equity with the people they employ, the communities they serve, the suppliers they utilize, and the boards that govern them. Without a focus on each of these stakeholders, disparities will persist.
What can organizations do to impact healthcare equity?
- Ensure senior leadership teams and boards are reflective of your patient and community populations
- Human Resource leaders – review organizational policies, procedures, and processes to ensure they are equitable
- Supplier diversity leaders – ensure minority businesses have opportunities to work with your organization
- Encourage community partners to provide equitable services and provide resources to do so. This may mean doing some things differently.
- Identify high-risk zip codes for patients and the social determinants that impact them. Design a plan to address them. Keep in mind, employees live in high-risk zip codes too.
We believe that health outcomes can change if healthcare comes together. Yes, each one of us can make a difference. If you do not know where to start, looking at disparities data is the first step in this effort. So, get the data! Analyze patient, workforce, community and supplier data by subgroup and then implement solutions to close disparity gaps – wherever they exist. Using an equity lens will help you do that.
-The Exeter Group
If you would like to discuss ways to reduce healthcare disparities and inequities, please contact The Exeter Group at email@example.com.