Universities Have an Opportunity to Advance Health Equity

The recent COVID-19 pandemic brought with it an opportunity to advance health equity. Despite the high-profile outbreak, people of color continue to face disproportionate hospitalization and mortality rates. In fact, Black and Hispanic Americans are twice as likely to develop COVID-19 than Whites, making the issue all the more pressing. These deaths brought into focus racial injustices and the importance of health equity.

Dissemination and implementation science are key to advancing health equity. These disciplines develop frameworks for evaluating implementation success and inform health outcomes. This enables universities to build their capacity in advancing implementation science and ensuring a more equitable translation of research to practice. Here, we describe three strategies universities can use to advance health equity by fostering an environment for these practices. These strategies are essential for advancing health equity in the United States.

While health insurance coverage is expanding across the country, health equity continues to be an issue for vulnerable populations. Increasing access to health insurance, building health care workforces, and improving disparities data are a few of the ways the ACA has been beneficial to communities. In addition, the ACA creates an opportunity for health care organizations to improve their connections with and knowledge of communities that may have historically underserved populations. However, the need to address safety-net care and access cannot be resolved with data alone. A combination of data and technology can facilitate social change, but it is not a magic wand.

Technology companies have the opportunity to address health equity challenges by developing digital solutions to solve healthcare issues. Health equity innovations must take into account inequities in access and quality. Digital health innovators must consider the historical context of the communities they serve and develop digital solutions to meet these needs. By improving health equity, they are not only improving patient outcomes, but also increasing the effectiveness of healthcare systems. They can also have a positive impact on the wider economy.

By advancing the science behind health equity, we can make real progress. Teaching health equity strategies can transform the way people think about health care and health equity. Ultimately, these strategies can help dismantle structural racism and advance health equity for all. While it is essential to eliminate the barriers to health care and health inequities, this work can also mitigate the impacts of current economic and social crises while safeguarding the nation’s future.

Diversifying the workforce in the health professions is another way to promote health equity. Recent work has shown that diversity of the health workforce is associated with improved algorithms, and this should be a key component of any health care organization’s strategy to improve equity. Inclusion of diverse populations in clinical research is an essential component of creating positive change. Inclusion of diverse populations increases generalizability, which is essential when advancing health care equity.

One of the most effective ways to improve patient engagement is to ask questions related to gender and sexuality. These questions improve clinical communication, and by identifying minority patients, providers can practice good cultural competency. In addition to improving patient satisfaction, these questions can help identify problems and offer interventions that promote healthy development. UHF plans to launch a statewide Pediatrics for an Equitable Developmental Start Learning Network in 2020. The program will also include a professional fellowship program to build early career clinicians.

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