In March 2022, the Institute for Diversity and Health Equity (IFDHE) launched the Health Equity Roadmap, a national framework to advance health equity in hospitals and health systems. The roadmap is a resource to address health disparities, improve health outcomes and drive organizations to become more equitable. 

Within its first year of the launch, IFDHE successfully engaged over 1,000 member hospitals in the Health Equity Roadmap. The goal is to continue that momentum so all member hospitals will engage with the roadmap to improve health care outcomes and drive operational efficiencies on behalf of the communities they serve. 

Joy A. Lewis, senior vice president for health equity strategies and executive director of IFDHE and Leon D. Caldwell, senior director of health equity strategies, explained why achieving this milestone is monumental, and what’s ahead. 

 

1,000 hospitals in the first year is a lofty goal. Where did you get this number from?

Leon: I didn't think it was appropriate just to say we're launching something and put it out there, with no goal in mind. I wanted to give us a mark and something to work towards and have that serve as our motivation. One thousand was just a number I came up with and then I realized that was one-fifth of the membership. So, I thought we should be able to get one-fifth of our membership to join us in the roadmap journey within a year. It was lofty, but very doable. Oftentimes, in these initiatives, you have to give yourself something to aim for. In the first year we were able to have a spark for engagement and had some excellent conversations throughout this journey. 

What does this milestone mean to you, and what do you think of the progress that’s been made since the launch of the Health Equity Roadmap last year?

Joy: We think 1,000 members was bold, because it represents 20% of our membership overall, but the goal was never a particular number. It’s about transforming health care and eliminating health disparities so all individuals can pursue their health goals. So, this is more of a marker of the direction we’re going in, and it essentially builds on prior work in this space. It’s exciting that our members are having these conversations about equity and are willing to do the hard work of addressing inequities, because we all know they’ve been around for decades. I think the movement by the field to really try to tackle these vexing issues is worth celebrating.

What kind of feedback have you received from members since the Roadmap launched last year, and what have you learned from any conversations with them?

Joy: Feedback has been very positive. I think more people are growing weary of incremental change in this space and are looking for actions that will transform the health care system to benefit ALL patients. The Roadmap is what members have been chomping at the bit for as they’ve wanted to know what the indicators of progress are and what are specific tactics/actions to move the needle.  Our members have given really positive feedback about the tools, resources, and evidence we put in front of them to make the compelling case that there is an imperative to do this work to yield the outcomes we’re after and execute on the AHA’s vision statement of a just society where all individuals reach their highest potential for health.

Now that more than 1,000 member hospitals and health systems are participating in the Roadmap, what’s next?

Joy: Most of our members currently engaging in the Roadmap are in the earliest stage  — exploring— which is where we expected the field to be. We encourage members to take the next step and leverage the tools and resources we’ve developed to help them move through each phase along the continuum. We have transformation action planners that are essentially workbooks, and we link to resources in our Health Equity Action Library for their use and action. 

What does the future of the roadmap look like to you?

Leon: I think the future of our work is really going beyond signing people up and taking the assessment. We want to see how hospitals are moving along our continuum and transforming. Can we look back and say, ‘how many hospitals have changed policies and practices so they’re more equitable, inclusive and more representative?’ The Health Equity Roadmap’s contribution is really going to be when policy and practices are changing and people are using our tools to do things differently. Of course, all of that will take a while. But there are little glimmers of hope along the way that we should be able to capture, and it will hopefully motivate more organizations to join us in this journey.


 

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