Health equity is a concept that seeks to achieve the highest standard of health for all people while also providing special attention to those most in need of care based on social conditions.
Inequities in health and health care are a longstanding challenge for Americans. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated these disparities and made it more urgent to address them.
Invest in Research
Health equity is a complex issue, and advancing it requires a multidisciplinary approach. It must include community-based organizations, policymakers, and other key stakeholders.
It also addresses broader social issues such as poverty, racism and discrimination, housing, and food insecurity. These factors, which may seem unrelated to medical care, influence a patient’s long-term health outcomes and drive health disparities.
In addition to generating direct financial ROI, a successful health equity initiative can be leveraged to enhance an organization’s brand in underserved communities and increase its credibility with payers and providers. Moreover, it can lead to improved employee engagement and productivity.
Invest in Education
Investing in education can improving health equity as well as your community. In addition, getting a high school or college education can help you find a job that allows you to earn more and provides you with skills that can be used throughout your life.
Moreover, a better-educated workforce can enhance our economy and create new jobs, creating more income and tax revenue. If, for example, we could cut our high school dropout rate by half, the national economic return would be a substantial increase in present value GDP and additional tax revenue.
There is an exciting opportunity to mobilize new funding sources and develop innovative approaches for broadening access to quality education through impact investing. Several models combine financial returns with social or environmental good and target higher-income populations with greater spending power.
Invest in Prevention
Health equity requires focusing on social factors that impact an individual’s health (risk and protective factors). Prevention science has generated countless practices, strategies, and policies that have prevented many adverse health and well-being outcomes and strengthened conditions that enable individuals to thrive.
Health inequities, however, are pervasive. They are associated with up to $135 billion in annual economic losses and $93 billion in excess medical costs.
Business leaders can play a crucial role in addressing these issues by improving workplace conditions and fostering healthier communities where they operate. They also can help address the socioeconomic status and other factors that affect a person’s access to and utilization of health care.
To ensure the best results, interventions must target populations most impacted by health inequities. They can achieve this through social and demographic data, place-based geographic information systems, and community-based mapping tools to identify areas for prioritization and implementation of programs and investments.
Invest in Community Engagement
Investing in community engagement is an essential component of health equity. It helps you build a relationship with your community members, making them feel like they are part of the decision-making process and ensuring their opinions are considered.
As a result, communities become more engaged and supportive of your organization’s mission. This can be particularly important in a society where trust is low.
Achieving meaningful community engagement is a dynamic and ongoing process that requires attention to social, political, racial, economic, historical, and environmental contexts. These contextual factors shape the outcomes of meaningful engagement and provide a feedback loop to motivate health equity through transformed systems for health.
ACE’s Conceptual Model represents this dynamic relationship between meaningful community engagement and improved health and healthcare outcomes. It is a guiding framework to catalyze meaningful engagement and radically propel the U.S. toward health equity through systems transformation. It includes the core principles and domains of meaningful employment and presents a taxonomy to assess the outcomes of meaningful community engagement. It is intended for researchers, policymakers, and community leaders to improve their ability to measure the impact of meaningful community engagement on health and health care.
Invest in People
Investing in people is an essential step to advancing health equity. It involves identifying the factors that prevent individuals from getting the healthcare they need and correcting them when possible.
It is also essential to recognize that addressing inequities requires a combination of social, political, and personal actions to create change. These actions include showing respect for those with varying backgrounds, involving all groups in enacting policy changes, and frequently evaluating how well policies promoting health equity are working.
In addition, businesses need to consider the economic impact of health disparities on their business. This is especially true for companies operating in areas with a higher concentration of populations facing healthcare coverage barriers, including uninsured or underinsured and living in poorer communities.
While health equity is a societal and ethical imperative, it should also be seen as a business problem with clearly defined and measurable objectives worth investing in to improve the company’s prospects. With this approach, more organizations can avoid committing to health equity but no clear strategy for making progress toward a goal that will have a positive return on investment (ROI). For example, cost-sharing initiatives such as co-payments for emergency room visits may inadvertently worsen disparities by increasing reliance on expensive care or worsening the quality of care for those most in need.