Achieving health equity and reducing disparities due to systemic racism and other upstream determinants of health begins with understanding of the scope and breath of the issue, including differences in life expectancy, cancer mortality, cardiovascular disease, obesity, asthma, hypertension and, increasingly, infant and maternal mortality.
U.S. health data show a maternal mortality rate for Black women that is nearly three times higher than the rate for women of any other race or ethnic category, according to figures compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The maternal mortality rate for Hispanic women rose by 44% in 2020 from the previous year, CDC figures show.
Similarly, the mortality rate for Black infants is more than twice as high than that of non-Hispanic white babies. Black, Hispanic, and Indigenous women experience the burden of poor health system outcomes throughout their pregnancies, and are much less likely than white women to receive prenatal care. As a result, they suffer sharply higher numbers of both preterm and low-birthweight births.
No easy solutions
It is well established through research and science that systemic inequities within society, many rooted in racism, play an enormous role in the opportunity to lead a healthy life. We see it in big cities, suburban neighborhoods, and rural communities.
Solving a widespread and complex problem such as health care disparities tied to race and ethnicity demands systematic and comprehensive actions that provide the circumstances and resources required for people to achieve and maintain optimal health.
Rise to Health: A National Coalition for Equity in Health Care creates a pathway to realizing that vision. This is a first-of-its-kind approach to addressing historic inequities in health care. The Coalition aims to align health sectors for greater impact, including health care organizations, individual physicians and other health care professionals, payers, professional societies, and pharmaceutical, research, and biotech organizations using a common framework and actionable playbook.
The AMA and our partners in the Rise to Health Coalition—the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, Race Forward, the American Hospital Association, the Council of Medical Specialty Societies and other founding collaborators—are committed to advancing racial justice across every aspect of health care together.
The core tenets of this plan include:
- Mobilizing and equipping individuals, health care organizations, and the health care industry with skills, tools and resources to move this work forward.
- Changing mindsets and the narrative around equity within health care.
- Influencing and fundamentally changing policy, payment, education, standards and practices.
- This groundbreaking approach promises to shake the foundations of a health care system that has allowed bias and inequity to not only persist but flourish, to further marginalize and minoritize families and community members, stealing years away from the lives of the patients they serve.
Physicians play an important role here, not only as patient advocates but as leaders who care about the health and well-being of the communities we serve. Our AMA Code of Medical Ethics calls us to this work when it states that physicians must always strive to deliver medical care with compassion and respect for human dignity and rights.
As physicians, and as healers, we should make every effort to deliver on that promise. Actions like getting grounded in our collective history of racism and other inequities, working with our teams to identify inequities present in our work, making equity a strategic priority, taking action to address past and ongoing harms, and investing in and advocating for thriving communities.
These are examples of the concrete actions and real-world solutions to which members of the Rise to Health Coalition commit. The coalition serves as a force multiplier in a cohesive national strategy that will yield substantive improvements in the health of our patients and future of our nation.
The AMA and our partners in the Rise to Health Coalition are already working together to give everyone, in every community nationwide, equitable access to evidence-based health care and technologies designed through a health equity lens. We are doubling down on existing efforts to build out a diverse, culturally competent health care workforce. And we are bringing our collective resources to bear on improving our patients’ health with a greater focus on social and structural drivers of health, access to care, workforce diversity, quality and safety.
Collaboration and cooperation are the keys to the success of the Coalition. Recognizing the overarching importance of equity in health care is just the first step in bringing forth the transformation we must all make, together, for the health of our patients and the good of our society.
Join the Rise to Health Coalition and learn more.