The COVID-19 pandemic is affecting everyone, but the disease has been especially harmful to people of color and other vulnerable populations such as older black and Latino adults, especially those who live in dense urban areas. People of color are more likely to be exposed to the coronavirus, and when they become infected, they are more likely to die than their white counterparts. Previously existing social and cultural inequities, rather than any biological differences between these populations, appear to be responsible.
ChenMed’s CEO Dr. Christopher Chen reflected on our ChenMed patients across eight states, a majority of whom are African American from challenging socio-economic circumstances. He issued a call to action entitled “Solving for the Racial Disparities Crisis in Coronavirus Deaths.”
Racial Health DisparitiesChenMed’s stance is aligned with the Joint Commission mission to continuously improve healthcare for the public, in collaboration with other stakeholders, by evaluating healthcare organizations and inspiring them to excel in providing safe and effective care of the highest quality and value. The Joint Commission’s Health Equity Statement strongly advocates that health providers bolster their strategic efforts to reduce racial disparities.
- The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) serves and leads the academic medicine community to improve the health of all. Founded in 1876 and based in Washington, DC, the AAMC is a not-for-profit association dedicated to transforming healthcare through innovative medical education, cutting-edge patient care, and groundbreaking medical research. The AAMC explains why the novel coronavirus affects everyone but also why some groups may suffer more.
- The term “health disparities” is often defined as “a difference in which disadvantaged social groups such as the poor, racial/ethnic minorities, women, and other groups who have persistently experienced social disadvantage or discrimination systematically experience worse health or greater health risks than more advantaged social groups.” This AAMC archived podcast episode from June 14, 2020, describes racial health disparities.
American Hospital Association’s #123forEquity Campaign to Eliminate Health Care DisparitiesAmerica’s hospitals and health systems are working hard to ensure that every person in every community receives high quality, equitable, and safe care. To do that, we must eliminate health and healthcare disparities that continue to exist for far too many racially, ethnically, and culturally diverse individuals.
To accelerate progress on these efforts, the American Hospital Association (AHA) launched the #123forEquity pledge campaign. This campaign builds on the efforts of the National Call to Action to Eliminate Health Care Disparities—a joint effort of the AHA, AAMA, American College of Healthcare Executives, Catholic Health Association of the United States, and America’s Essential Hospitals—and asks hospital and health system leaders to act to accelerate progress in these areas:
- Increasing the collection and use of race, ethnicity, language preference, and other sociodemographic data
- Increasing cultural competency training
- Increasing diversity in leadership and governance
- Improving and strengthening community partnerships
The Importance of Healthcare Training for Equity and InclusionThe Association for Talent Development’s (ATD) 2019 State of the Healthcare Industry report, as well as interviews with TD leaders in healthcare organizations, offers recommendations for how talent development leaders in healthcare can combat challenges such as health equity and inclusion by improving their approach to talent and organization development.
The same year, I wrote a blog post for ATD that shared insights on confronting unconscious bias in healthcare. Bias awareness and action are some of the first steps toward an inclusive and culturally competent healthcare culture.
Equity, diversity, and inclusion diversity have always been important topics and are combined into one of the 23 capabilities (Cultural Awareness and Inclusion) in the ATD Talent Development Capability Model. In these times of heightened awareness, it's critical for TD professionals to foster an inclusive work environment; convey respect for different perspectives, races, religions, backgrounds, customs, abilities, behaviors, and norms; and integrate D&I principles into their talent management, organization development, and learning strategies and initiatives.
Healthcare Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion TrainingCleveland Clinic’s office of diversity and inclusion provides strategic leadership for creating an inclusive organizational culture for patients, employees, business partners, and the communities it serves. Various educational programs are available to employees, including:
- Cultural competency programs
- Diversity in healthcare forums and conferences
- Skills training and evaluation
- Facilitation of diversity dialogue
- Conflict resolution and management
- Building diverse work teams
- Sexual harassment prevention training
- Cross-cultural management techniques
In 2017, CEO Dr. Toby Cosgrove signed the CEO Pledge to ensure a diverse and inclusive Cleveland Clinic.
The Rationale for Inclusive Healthcare Cultures Is IntensifyingIn 2019 PwC released a report on the top health industry issues of 2020, one of which was that health organizations will align diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives with business goals and identify blind spots that are compromising their abilities to achieve the mission of providing equitable access to lifesaving care. “They will begin to apply an inclusive and equitable lens to their research, products, and services, as they plan boards of directors, leadership teams, and workforces that look like, think like, and understand the diverse patients they serve.”
An inclusive culture is one that accepts, values, and views as strength the difference we all bring to the table, according to Harvard University. Through these discussions, employees can learn from experts in the field about such areas as unintended bias, cultural competency, bystander awareness, and avoiding stereotyping.
Inclusive Culture Best PracticesThe Moffitt Cancer and Research Center is continuously recognized for its high-performing inclusive culture that is meant “to promote a culture of diversity and inclusion as they contribute to the prevention and cure of cancer.” Moffitt focuses its efforts on eliminating those obstacles to an individual’s ability to exist within their personal comfort zone at the cancer center. Everyone is important to meeting this priority. Addressing and responding to diversity and inclusion fosters an environment where mutual respect for diverse cultures, communication styles, languages, customs, beliefs, values, traditions, experiences, and other ways in which employees identify themselves is the expectation.
Top Hospitals and Health Systems Companies for Diversity and InclusionCleveland Clinic and Moffitt Cancer and Research Center are among a select group of health providers competing regularly for a spot on the Diversity Inc. Top Hospitals and Health Systems list. These companies identify themselves as “health care and social assistance” using the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS). With the addition of questions related to the diversity of their doctors, nurses, residents, and faculty (if applicable), healthcare providers are evaluated by these criteria:
- Human capital management representation metrics
- Leadership accountability
- Talent programs
- Workplace practices
- Supplier diversity