WIHI: How Health Care Organizations Can Create Equity in the Community

Date: October 29, 2015


  • Kimberlydawn Wisdom, MD, MS, Senior Vice President of Community Health & Equity and Chief Wellness and Diversity Officer, Henry Ford Health System
  • John Whittington, MD, Lead Faculty, IHI Triple Aim; Senior Fellow, Institute for Healthcare Improvement
  • Sandra Bailey, Vice President for Care Transitions, Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare
  • Joy Sharp, Manager, Community Navigators, Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare
  • Mara Laderman, MSPH, Senior Research Associate, IHI

Health and health care improvement communities in the US are focusing on equity and racial disparities in some important new ways. Frustrated by the slow progress of closing gaps (despite decades of research and documentation of the problems), many are forging ahead to create more equitable access to care and better outcomes wherever and whenever they can. The new learning is coming from the “doing,” often making use of existing data that already tell a powerful story of persistent inequities (e.g., in cancer diagnosis and treatment, heart disease, and diabetes care) and highlight where there are opportunities to intervene.
On this episode of WIHI, we explored the opportunities health systems have to reduce inequities by virtue of their role as employers and purchasers, as well as their overall stature in the community. Health systems can promote equity with better hiring practices; by using a diverse pool of contractors and suppliers for goods and services; by offering living wages; and by engaging in initiatives in low-income — and often adjacent — neighborhoods. There are also many ways to use the influence and the resources of a health system to develop more community-friendly spaces and places for outdoor activities and physical exercise.

These aren’t just pie-in-the-sky ideas. They’re being spearheaded by organizations such as Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare in Memphis and the Henry Ford Health System in Detroit. There are numerous other examples — but still, not nearly enough.



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