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Institute for Healthcare Improvement Boosts Health Equity Efforts

Analysis  |  By Christopher Cheney  
   September 27, 2022

IHI is offering two ways for healthcare organizations to participate in its Pursuing Equity initiative.

With sponsorship funding, the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) is launching a new iteration of the organization's Pursuing Equity initiative.

Health equity has emerged as a pressing issue in U.S. healthcare during the coronavirus pandemic. In particular, there have been COVID-19 health disparities for many racial and ethnic groups that have been at higher risk of getting sick and experiencing relatively high mortality rates.

IHI created the Pursuing Equity initiative in 2017 to help health systems address healthcare disparities that are systematic, avoidable, and unjust. The Pursuing Equity initiative is based on a framework with five key components for healthcare organizations:

  • Establish health equity as a strategic priority
  • Design structures and processes to bolster health equity work
  • Develop strategies to address determinants of health that healthcare organizations can impact directly
  • Reduce institutional racism within the organization
  • Form partnerships with community organizations to improve health and equity

Genentech, which is a subsidiary of the Roche Group, has provided funding that will allow dozens of healthcare organizations to participate in the Pursuing Equity initiative at no cost from January 2023 to June 2024. IHI is offering two opportunities for healthcare organizations to participate in Pursuing Equity:

  • Learning Network: 40 teams will develop the infrastructure needed at health systems to advance health equity and racial justice at their organizations and communities
  • Action Community: 10 teams will use quality improvement tools to make measurable positive changes in clinical health equity disparities

Action Community applications are open through Oct. 21 and Learning Network applications are open through Nov. 1. Details about submitting applications, expectations for participating organizations, and IHI support are available online.

Working with IHI on equity

HealthPartners has been working with IHI on equity issues for many years, says Beth Averbeck, MD, senior medical director for primary care at the Bloomington, Minnesota-based health system. "We were one of the Pursuing Perfection grantees two decades ago and equity was one of the aims. So, we have had a number of different collaborations with IHI. Because of the work we have done already, Pursuing Equity has been an opportunity to focus on an area that is important to both organizations."

Participating in Pursuing Equity was helpful during the pandemic, she says. "Some of the concepts that we learned in the Pursuing Equity initiative helped us in the COVID-19 vaccine work that we did. Given some of the distrust that we anticipated, there were potential disparities in COVID vaccination. So, we applied some of the Pursuing Equity principles to how we could be nimble and try things to close equity gaps."

Pursuing Equity complements ongoing equity work at HealthPartners, says Nance McClure, JD, chief operating officer at the health system. "For Pursuing Equity, what we have tried to do is to make sure that the team we have working in the initiative with IHI is directly connected to work that we have in our annual plan. Pursuing Equity has been an accelerant for work that we have in our annual plan. We have not been creating new and different work. In that way, we have not made specific investments in Pursuing Equity."

McClure offered advice for other health systems that are planning to participate in the Pursuing Equity initiative. "You need to make sure there is a solid link between people participating in the Pursuing Equity initiative and the work that is going on in the organization so that it does not become siloed and work that is competing for resources. It must be part of the mainstream work of the organization. … It also helps to keep the team small. Some organizations will have a team of 10 or 15 people, but it is often more productive to have a small team that is accountable for working on the team and incorporating their work with what is happening in the organization."

Related: Quintuple Aim: Health Equity Added to Healthcare Improvement Directive

Christopher Cheney is the CMO editor at HealthLeaders.


The Pursuing Equity initiative is designed to help healthcare organizations address health disparities that are systematic, avoidable, and unjust.

The initiative was first launched in 2017, and the new iteration of the program that is being launched in January features a Learning Network and an Action Community.

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