Two years ago, a program spearheaded by the Illinois Health and Hospital Association (IHA) saw nearly 150 Illinois hospitals complete racial equity self-assessments. Now hospitals across the country are being asked to join a national pilot project that allows them to better define and accelerate their health equity efforts for all patients by crafting their own Racial Equity in Healthcare Progress Report.
This validated, long-term accountability tool transforms data into a roadmap that helps organizations identify and eliminate obstacles preventing all patient populations from being healthy. The progress reports utilize a race-conscious approach to identifying systemic opportunities to improve care delivery to historically marginalized communities.
The national effort is supported by a grant from the Commonwealth Fund, which awarded funds to Chicago-based Rush University System for Health (RUSH). The University of Chicago Medicine (UChicago Medicine) is working with RUSH and its RUSH BMO Institute for Health Equity on the grant’s implementation that builds upon efforts to achieve health equity in Chicago and throughout Illinois since 2021.
In the Illinois effort, once the assessments were complete, participating organizations developed a charter to commit to — and document progress toward — achieving racial health equity.
Since the Progress Report’s statewide launch in 2021, nearly 150 hospitals have completed the assessment, with the majority completing it for a second time in 2022 to track progress. These hospitals receive data analytics to guide their efforts to advance health equity. As a result of their engagement with the Progress Report, many hospitals have moved to action by participating in Illinois Learning Collaboratives and drafting Equity Charters. In 2022, Illinois hospitals submitted more than 100 Equity Charters with a wide variety of improvement initiatives including: board and leadership demographics; diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) training on implicit bias and cultural responsiveness; race, ethnicity and language (REaL), social determinants of health (SDOH), and sexual orientation and gender identify (SOGI) data collection and outcome stratification; supplier diversity; local hiring; and more.
“Achieving health equity within health systems requires dynamic partnerships between health care stakeholders and community members. The Commonwealth Fund is thrilled to support RUSH, UChicago Medicine and IHA to develop innovative tools such as the Progress Report focused on driving equitable health outcomes,” said Laurie Zephyrin, senior vice president for advancing health equity at the Commonwealth Fund, in a statement.
David Ansell, M.D., M.P.H., senior vice president for community health equity for Rush University Medical Center and associate provost for community affairs for Rush University, pointed out that while there is scientific consensus that race is a social construct — that there are no genetic or biological differences between race — race remains a predictor of the quality of patient care even after adjusting for socioeconomic status, age and other factors.
“Ignoring inequities only deepens them. Engaging with the Progress Report helps develop a race-conscious approach that allows hospitals to identify and address obstacles to care that harm all systematically excluded populations,” he said in a statement.
“We want to empower health care providers to meaningfully assess and address issues of racism and racial health equity,” said Brenda Battle, R.N., B.S.N., M.B.A., senior vice president of community health transformation and chief equity officer at UChicago Medicine, in a statement. “This grant will allow us to extend our Illinois work to help colleagues nationwide tackle this systemic issue head-on, and ultimately improve health care for patients around the U.S.”