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Hospital association signs pledge to eliminate health care disparities

Earlier this year, the Oregon Association of Hospitals and Health Systems’ Board of Trustees unanimously voted to endorse the American Hospital Association’s #123forEquity Pledge to Act to Eliminate Health Care Disparities.

Health disparities are differences in health that are avoidable, unfair or unjust. This pledge enables hospitals to take measurable action on their belief that nobody should be denied the chance to live a long and healthy life because of social, economic or environmental conditions.

“As stewards of community health, it is our commitment to ensure that patients have equal access to medical care when they need it,” said Jim Mattes, chair of the OAHHS Board of Trustees and President & CEO of Grande Ronde Hospital in La Grande. “This pledge supports our vision to deliver quality health care without disparity to all those in need of our services.”

By signing the pledge, OAHHS has agreed to urge all Oregon hospitals to sign the #123forEquity Pledge and assist them in their efforts to eliminate health care disparities. So far, 25 Oregon hospitals have signed.
“Critical to the success of the #123forEquity campaign is a collective, statewide effort,” said Andy Davidson, President & CEO of OAHHS. “We are proud that many of Oregon’s hospitals have already signed the pledge, and we are ready to assist all hospitals in achieving this important goal.”

Nationally, hospitals are making progress to achieve health equity, but more work needs to be done, according to a biennial benchmarking survey by the Institute for Diversity in Health Management. The survey found significant increases from 2013 in the percentage of hospitals that are using data on patient race, ethnicity and language to identify gaps in care and implement programs to improve quality. However, fewer than half of the hospitals surveyed used the data in this way.

The survey also found that 80 percent of hospitals educate all clinical staff during orientation about how to address the unique cultural and linguistic factors affecting the care of patients, and 79 percent offer continuing education opportunities on cultural competence. While minorities represent 32 percent of hospital patients nationally in 2015, according to the survey, only 14 percent of hospital board members and 11 percent of executive leadership were minorities – similar to the results of the 2013 survey.

“Hospitals across America are working hard to advance quality and improve care for every individual,” said AHA President & CEO Rick Pollack. “Understanding why different patient populations in a community may experience different outcomes is a critical piece of those efforts. The survey tells us that we have not made as much progress as we would have liked in some key areas. It shines a light on where more attention is needed to meet the expectations of patients and communities.”

By signing the #123forEquity Pledge, hospitals agree to:

  • Choose a quality measure to stratify by race, ethnicity or language preference, or other sociodemographic variables (such as income, disability, veteran status, sexual orientation and gender).
  • Determine if a health care disparity exists in this quality measure. If yes, design a plan to address this gap.
  • Provide cultural competency training for all staff or develop a plan to ensure staff receives cultural competency training.
  • Have a dialogue with their board and leadership team on how to reflect the community and what actions can be taken to address any gaps.
“We believe that by taking action on this pledge we will both help improve the health of our state’s most vulnerable citizens and also improve our respective relationship with the communities that we serve,” said Davidson. “It is our goal to have 100 percent member participation in this pledge.”