Massachusetts Health & Hospital Association

MHA Calls on the Healthcare Community and All Sectors to Commit to Board Diversification

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The message—sent to healthcare organizations and partners across Massachusetts—calls for an approach to diversity, health equity & inclusion that starts at the top

BURLINGTON, MA – The Massachusetts Health & Hospital Association (MHA) today sent a message to healthcare organizations – and all sectors across the Commonwealth – calling on them to improve the diversity of their governing boards. This call to action is a key component of MHA’s broader diversity, health equity and inclusion (DHE&I) strategy, informed by ongoing reflection, strategic planning, and action by the MHA Board, its Standing Committee on DHE&I, and healthcare leaders across the state.

Evidence has shown that health outcomes improve when healthcare organizations’ caregivers and decision-makers reflect the diverse backgrounds of patients, facilities, and communities — starting at the top with boards of directors and trustees. By stressing a statewide commitment to board diversity, Massachusetts hospitals and health systems are actively working to ensure that they are representative of the communities they serve.

“We are continually inspired by the healthcare community’s drive to lead and make Massachusetts a more inclusive, equitable place to live,” said Steve Walsh, MHA’s president & CEO. “Our leaders have made it clear that board diversity is a priority that every organization can embrace and use to create change.  We feel compelled to share this approach with all our partners as we combat systemic racism and longstanding inequities together.”

MHA is leading by example, working in recent years to incorporate more diverse voices into its own Board of Trustees. Since 2017, MHA’s board has grown from 7% to nearly 25% racially/ethnically diverse, and from 31% to almost 50% women.

At the same time, MHA is helping healthcare organizations across the state advance their board diversity. Earlier this year, MHA conducted a first-ever survey of board demographics among Massachusetts hospitals that showed, in the aggregate, their boards of trustees are nearly 20% racially/ethnically diverse and almost 40% women. These findings reflect the concerted work that healthcare organizations have already done to diversify their governing boards – and the ample work still to be done. The survey also provides a benchmark against which they can measure their progress and track their improvement. 

“The pandemic has cast a new light on our widespread societal failure to address systemic inequalities in our healthcare delivery system,” said Dr. Kevin Churchwell, President and CEO of Boston Children’s Hospital, incoming chair of MHA’s Board, and co-chair of MHA’s Standing Committee on DHE&I. “There is no better time than now to unite and commit to eliminating these inequities, especially those affecting our most underserved and vulnerable populations.”

“Collaboration is key in creating true equity at every level of our healthcare system, inside and outside the walls of healthcare facilities,” said Dr. Joseph Betancourt, senior vice president of Equity and Community Health at Massachusetts General Hospital and co-chair of MHA’s Standing Committee on DHE&I. “MHA’s peer network of DHE&I leaders has accelerated the conversation around inequities within the healthcare sector, and we look forward to continuing our work with healthcare leaders to create meaningful change.”

Today’s call for board diversification is part of MHA’s broader DHE&I strategy. This strategy — developed by MHA’s Standing Committee on Diversity, Health Equity, and Inclusion — is built around six key pillars: board development, leadership and workforce development, advocacy, health equity, best practices, and MHA’s own work as an association. The effort is ongoing and will be led in part by MHA’s newly appointed director of health equity.

MHA has developed go-to forums for open dialogue and education across the healthcare community, both at the local and national level. This work will continue, as MHA leverages partnerships with organizations such as the Massachusetts Medical Society, the Massachusetts Chapter of the American College of Healthcare Executives, and the National Association of Health Services Executives. Learn more about MHA’s Standing Committee on Diversity, Health Equity & Inclusion.