This article was originally published on the Equity of Care’s blog on March 23, 2015.
Aswita Tan-McGrory, MBA, MSPH
The Disparities Solutions Center
Massachusetts General Hospital
The issue of racial and ethnic disparities in health care is now garnering great attention from health care leaders across the country given health care transformation, reform and the pursuit of value. The connections between disparities, quality, safety and cost are clear, and there is also a strong understanding of the importance of developing systems that provide value to diverse populations. Achieving equity in quality will not be easy and will not happen overnight— most important of all, it will require a movement. In 2007, the Disparities Solutions Center at Massachusetts General Hospital launched the Disparities Leadership Program, aimed at doing just that. The DLP is a year-long, hands-on executive education program focused exclusively on helping health care leaders achieve equity in quality. It aims to create leaders prepared to meet the challenges of health care transformation by improving quality for at-risk populations who experience disparities. The goals are:
- To arm health care leaders with a rich understanding of the causes of disparities and the vision to implement solutions and transform their organization to deliver high-value health care.
- To help leaders create strategic plans or projects to advance their work in reducing disparities in a customized way, with practical benefits tailored to every organization.
- To align the goals of health equity with health care reform and value-based purchasing.
Since its inception, 252 participants from 121 organizations representing 30 states, Puerto Rico, Canada and Switzerland have participated in the program.
There have been many concrete outcomes of the DLP, but perhaps the most exciting are the movements created and led by our alumni. For example, in 2013, several DLP pediatric hospitals joined together to establish best practices, lessons learned and recommendations for the field with regard to race, ethnicity, language and other demographic data collection in pediatric care settings. This group, the Pediatric Health Equity Collaborative, currently consists of 11 organizations and is finalizing recommendations for the field on data collection in the pediatric setting.
Also in 2013, several DLP alumni organizations in Minnesota came together for a “Bridges toward Health Equity” event. The Minnesota DLP alumni remain connected and currently six organizations meet on a regular basis to discuss best practices and share resources. In response to DLP alumni feedback that there was a need for a conference focused on disparities, equity and quality, the DSC developed the bi-annual Healthcare Quality and Equity Action Forum. With conferences in 2012 and 2014, both well attended, the Equity Action Forum has become the home for health care leaders to discuss how we can improve quality, achieve equity and pursue value in a time of rapid health care system change. All this demonstrates that addressing disparities and achieving equity in our current health care system will need to be a collaborative effort where health care leaders network, share best practices and learn from each other.
The Disparities Leadership Program has been instrumental in creating the space and framework for this movement, and the hope is it will grow and gain momentum in the future. This is what will be required, if we are to reach our goal of high-quality care for all.