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AHA Takes On Racial Disparities in Care, Leadership

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media, July 19, 2011

Hospitals have a serious problem with their lack of executive diversity, American Hospital Association President and CEO Rich Umbdenstock acknowledged Monday.

"I know it's a problem, just looking out at the audience" of 1,300 executives attending AHA's 19th Annual Leadership Summit in San Diego this week, he said during an interview.

And they know they need to address racial and ethnic disparities in care and increase their language and cultural literacy, tailored to the communities they serve.

So the AHA took a bold step Monday to elevate the profile of disparities and diversity, to persuade member organizations to give the issues more focus. It called on all hospitals to take three steps to improve in a campaign they call Equity of Care.

First, the AHA wants all hospitals to begin collecting race, ethnicity, and language information on all patients, whether they enter hospitals through the emergency room or to a treatment floor. The AHA has helped to develop a National Quality Forum "best practice" computerized tool kit that allows hospital personnel an easy way to log this information in for each patient.

Second, there's a great need to increase cultural competency in the training of clinicians and support staff. "We want to make sure that all hospital personnel who have patient contact get cultural competency training," Umbdenstock said.

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2 comments on "AHA Takes On Racial Disparities in Care, Leadership"


Annette Bourbonniere (7/21/2011 at 2:43 PM)
This article shows that the AHA is still unaware of a serious gap – persons with disabilities. While it is important to address racial and ethnic disparities, this group needs to be reminded that persons with disabilities are the third largest market segment in the United States. At this time, physical access to healthcare is seriously lacking and attitudes toward persons with disabilities range from dismissive to overly solicitous, skipping respect and accommodations. Medical schools and nursing schools routinely discriminate against applicants with physical disabilities, making it even more difficult to recognize the importance of this demographic. One possible solution would be for the healthcare industry to stop looking at disability in the medical model and start looking at this population as a market segment. For purposes of patient care, employee safety and equal respect and opportunities for all, this needs to be addressed sooner rather than later. Annette Bourbonniere www.accessing-ability.com 401-846-1960 Fax: 401-846-1944 Twitter: @AccessInclude

Anonymous (7/19/2011 at 11:07 AM)
Great to see AHA take steps to address health equity with good interventions, which have long been overlooked. Would suggest adding critical steps to also change the leadership demographic. Multicultural leadership will be critical to strategize successful change as opposed to simple change for equity.