We know that biotech and medical research tends to boom in our state. But what about equity in healthcare treatment for patients receiving care in North Carolina?
It turns out that two hospitals merit national attention for their fair practices in treating everyone. Let’s get into why.
Which NC Hospitals Received the Healthcare Equity Award?
On Aug. 26, Cone Health in Greensboro received the 2020 Carolyn Boone Lewis Equity of Care Award. Meanwhile, Chatham Hospital (in Siler City, NC) was named as an honoree for the award. The Henry Ford Health System in Detroit joined Chatham as the award’s other honoree. The American Hospital Association (AHA), the award’s sponsor, praised each hospital for their strategic practice of healthcare equity.
This equity award honors healthcare systems which make headway into serving all their patients with fairness.
Just last year, the AHA renamed the award after Carolyn Boone Lewis, the first African American hospital trustee to chair its board. AHA President and CEO Rick Pollack explained its importance in highlighting her legacy of equity: “This award spotlights the hospitals and health systems that are taking the initiative to learn about the populations, patients and communities they serve, including those who have not traditionally interacted with the healthcare system.”
Namely, the award names the healthcare which is working to decrease health inequities. According to the CDC, health inequities include many disparities of health between demographic or socioeconomic groups. They can appear as differences in access to medical care, length of life, rates of disease, severity of disease, and other health features.
We call them health inequities because they stem from non-health concerns like financial barriers, systemic barriers to care and other unfairnesses. The AHA honors healthcare systems (like Cone Health and Chatham) because they’ve adjusted their work and unveiled new plans to eliminate those inequities.
Why Did These NC Hospitals Receive the Equity Award?
Namely, they’ve each taken proactive efforts to spread healthcare equity. Cone Health, for instance, trains all its physicians in social and racial influence on medical care. Its staff also helped vulnerable populations usually stranded without care. How, exactly? They offered transportation to patients who would’ve missed their appointments without the option.
Chatham Hospital, according to President Jeff Strickler, has built healthcare equity into its training also. “Our caregivers leverage the collection of race, ethnicity, age, gender, and other data to educate staff on cultural diversity and unconscious bias,” he said. “These efforts continue to help improve the care of non-English speaking patients.”
But Chatham also tackles disparities through on-the-ground community engagement. “Chatham Hospital partners with county and nonprofit service providers,” Strickler said, “offers a free monthly food pantry and works with law enforcement to curb misuse of prescribed opioids and implement alternatives to pain management.” These range of disparity-facing measures earned the healthcare equity award. They qualify as what the AHA calls “all in.”
Why Equity Matters to North Carolina Healthcare
For one, COVID-19’s urgent demand for quality healthcare has exposed a few disparities. In this crisis, we’ve seen that dense housing, poor medical access and racial discrimination leave minorities at greater risk. We likely can’t revive our communities and move past COVID-19 without covering these gaps of care.
Not to mention that ongoing debates about racial discrimination includes racial disparities in healthcare. You can expect to see increased calls for more equitable practices, both in our state and nationwide. That’s why it matters that Cone Health and Chatham Hospital have received the equity award: they’ve taken solid steps in an ongoing, important healthcare reform.