Hospitals and health systems are today in the midst of a rapidly changing health care landscape. It sometimes feels like changes are weekly, if not daily, and the need to be constantly responsive can sometimes compromise the capacity of hospital leaders to be   reflective and think about what’s happening on a broader, societal level. 

Take for example our nation’s experience with the fluctuating pandemic — if we pause long enough to consider the past two years, we could not ignore the evidence that COVID-19 has disproportionately affected Black, Latino, Native American and other communities of color. The further unveiling of these inequities has brought greater awareness to pre-pandemic health disparities experienced by these same individuals, families and communities. It is increasingly critical that health care providers and hospital leaders not only make their voices heard on these issues, but help paint a clear picture of the state of the field’s efforts to advance and ensure access to high-quality equitable health care for all people and communities. To tell this story, we need data.

The American Hospital Association and its Institute for Diversity and Health Equity (IFDHE), as part of its commitment to advancing health equity and eliminating health disparities, need your help to better understand where the field is today and where opportunities remain to mobilize around diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) efforts within health care organizations.|

One of the key tools for gathering these data and obtaining an accurate view of trend lines is our biennial benchmark survey of hospitals and health systems. For several years now, AHA and IFDHE have probed with hospital and health systems leaders about their observations, actions, and efforts to make progress in DEI work for the benefit of their workforce, patients and communities they serve. Following the holiday season, we’ll be launching our next data collection survey in January 2022.

The benchmark survey is one of the best ways the AHA and IFDHE can support the field moving forward, but it only provides an accurate state of affairs when more hospitals participate. 

With many challenges facing hospitals and health systems, particularly around staffing issues and an overwhelmed hospital workforce, it may seem burdensome to take time for another survey. We cannot, however, stress how important it is to dedicate time to completing the survey when it is released. The ability to collect robust data, insights and information is a critical opportunity that aids our ability to present facts and statistics about the field. This information will also guide us as we advocate for your needs and help to shape policies at the federal level. 

Looking to 2022, the benchmark survey will be the starting point as we embark on a journey together to accelerate actions around health equity, diversity and inclusion. It will provide baseline data about the current state of the field’s DEI efforts. In the weeks following the survey, you will have the opportunity to engage with the AHA’s Equity Roadmap, a national initiative currently in the pilot/field testing phase of development. The roadmap is aimed at building the capacity of our hospitals and health systems to drive improvements in health care outcomes through more equitable and inclusive policies and practices.

Our nation’s hospital and health system leaders are uniquely positioned to implement strategies to advance health equity, diversity and inclusion and share those successes broadly. By engaging in this data collection effort, hospital and health system leaders can hold one another accountable to move the needle on health equity, diversity and inclusion.

Stay tuned for more information on the benchmarking survey early next year. Details will be available at www.ifdhe.aha.org

Joy Lewis is AHA’s senior vice president of health equity strategies. She also is the executive director of the AHA’s Institute for Diversity and Health Equity.
 

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