On Tuesday, MHA joined a diverse coalition of community advocates, health care professionals and public officials before the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing in a show of support for legislation that seeks to address racial and ethnic health disparities by establishing a state Office of Health Equity.
The bill, sponsored by the House Chair of the Committee on Health Care Financing, Representative Jeffrey Sánchez (D-Boston), would statutorily task the state’s Office of Health Equity with: coordinating the various state policies to address health disparities; evaluating the effectiveness of policies; and setting state goals and reporting annually on progress made towards reducing health disparities in the commonwealth.
“Even with all of our successes in healthcare reform, focused on access, affordability and quality, there remain pervasive and persistent racial and ethnic disparities in healthcare status and outcomes,” Sánchez said in testimony before the Committee.
Studies have shown that socio-economic, behavioral, and environmental factors account for 80% of overall health status. Social factors, such as income, housing, and education are the greatest determinants of individual health.
“While we have made some progress with initiatives to address these factors, these efforts tend to lack coordination and long-term planning. A dedicated Office of Health Equity can provide a framework for coordinating these existing programs and optimize our efforts across multiple agencies,” Sánchez explained.
In November 2015, the MHA Board of Trustees endorsed the American Hospital Association’s (AHA) Equity of Care Campaign – called the “#123forEquity Pledge to Eliminate Health Care Disparities.” This campaign focuses on increasing three equity aims: 1) the collection and use of race, ethnicity and language preference data; 2) increasing cultural competency training; and 3) increasing diversity in governance and leadership. As healthcare providers shift towards integrated care and value-based payment, their ability to identify, measure, and reduce variations will be critical to the health and longevity of our organizations.
Forty Massachusetts hospitals and health systems have signed the #123forEquity Pledge to Eliminate Health Care Disparities. By taking the pledge, hospital leaders publicly commit to take action to achieve the three equity aims, provide updates on progress to the AHA and their Boards, and share their success in promoting diversity and health equity with the public. The Sanchez legislation would complement these hospital efforts.