Health disparities are front and center now. Where do we go from here?

Public health professionals have been sounding the alarm for years, but the COVID-19 pandemic and the sweeping protests following the death of George Floyd have brought the message front and center:  

Socioeconomic status, race, gender, ethnicity and access to education are key determinants of health and life expectancy. Effectively addressing the root causes impacting health is essential to improving health across all communities and geographies.

“Equity is the absence of avoidable, unfair, or remediable differences among groups of people, whether those groups are defined socially, economically, demographically or geographically or by other means of stratification. ‘Health equity’ or ‘equity in health’ implies that ideally everyone should have a fair opportunity to attain their full health potential and that no one should be disadvantaged from achieving this potential.”

– World Health Organization, definition of Health Equity

 

Recent history-shaping events have prompted people across the globe to view the world through a new lens. In healthcare, it’s the health equity lens.

Public health professionals have long viewed the health of our communities through this framework. Health equity has increasingly been the central priority of hospital community health needs assessments and implementation strategies, as well as local and state health department community health improvement plans. The rest of the healthcare industry is now quickly catching up.

As healthcare teams and public health professionals align around their understanding of and strategies toward health equity, the ability to have substantial positive impact on the health of all communities grows.

It’s a pivotal moment for community health. Approaching these challenging times as a transformative opportunity can create positive systemic change for the future.

Corralling data, informing strategic action

The view through the health equity lens is made clearer by data and insights. Without them, informed decision-making and effective strategies to reach populations and address health disparities will fall short.

Understanding our most vulnerable populations is critical to effectively focusing resources and implementing evidence-based programs that will improve community health across communities and regions. Equitably addressing community needs requires a commitment to strategic action supported by data.

How do we get there?

Healthcare and public health leaders must set priorities and align resources across other sectors such as education, transportation and housing to improve health outcomes and wellness — and address unmet social needs.

Paving a new path with strategic management technology

A technology platform can make or break your ability to coalesce around strategies, actions, tracking and reporting. It’s crucial to do a rigorous evaluation of available technologies, assess their capabilities and determine how well they can integrate and deliver the information you need and help you implement effective solutions.

The best solutions will enable:

  • Visibility and integration across sectors
  • Clear ownership and accountability
  • Consistent updates and transparency
  • Automated dashboards and reports
  • Real-time assessment of actions, initiatives and programs
  • Deep insights into data
  • Progress tracking

Leveraging top-notch technology will ease your ability to:

  1. Create and implement a plan
    Creating a plan to improve individual communities’ health is hard work. It takes multiple organizations and departments working together to determine strategies and activities that can affect positive change. After that work is done, tracking progress and impact can be overwhelming and seemingly impossible if you’re buried with spreadsheets and reports that are difficult to manage. Make sure your platform fosters operational efficiency.

  2. Collaborate across organizations and departments
    Working across organizations or departments is a must. Complex problems require action and input from many individuals and teams. Your technology platform should help everyone stay informed, engaged and meet shared goals.

  3. Share and communicate outcomes, performance and data
    Accountability and transparency are no longer negotiable. Your technology should make it simple to deliver timely and accurate information to elected officials, executive leadership, community members, staff and partners.

Public health experts with deep knowledge and experience are often part of the team developing the latest innovations in health strategy management platforms. You will get the most out of your technology if you work with a team that backs it up with expert support.

The last few weeks have shown that we have moved beyond acknowledging health disparities exist. We are ready to do the hard work of addressing the root causes of health inequities including racism, income inequality and other structural inequities.

Now is the time to review strategic plans and ask the difficult questions about whether we are truly and meaningfully addressing health disparities.  Equity can no longer be a side project or initiative — it must be the main path forward.

About Healthy Communities Institute
Conduent Healthy Communities Institute enables health-focused organizations to efficiently and measurably impact the populations they serve. Through the HCI platform, users can swiftly gain insights from data, identify disparities, plan and implement initiatives, and collaborate and communicate to make a difference. The HCI Strategy Tracking Solution combines the expertise and support of public health consultants with the power of the leading strategy-tracking software.

To make localized population health data available to organizations on the front lines of the fight against coronavirus, HCI recently launched a new website: HCI COVID-19 At-Risk Populations

Contact Conduent Healthy Communities Institute at communityhealth@conduent.com.

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