Most hospital employees can't define health equity: Study

Less than a quarter of hospital employees can correctly define health equity, according to a recent study out of Atlanta-based Grady Health System. 

Researchers, led by Melissa Uehling, an MD/PhD candidate in the Department of Sociology at Emory University, and Yolanda Wimberly, MD, Grady's chief health equity officer, conducted 28 focus group discussions with employees of the safety-net hospital. 

Of the 233 employees who attended the focus groups, 59 percent were front-line clinicians or midlevel managers or supervisors, while the rest had director-level roles or above. Fifty-eight percent of participants were Black, 33 percent were white and 12 percent were of other races. 

Employees were asked to define equality, equity and health equity by anonymously typing their answers into their mobile phones. A specialized software later analyzed their responses; correct responses, "acknowledged the importance of determining individual needs and tailoring treatment to achieve equality," according to a Sept. 12 news release. 

Only 20 percent of participants correctly defined equity and 23 percent correctly defined health equity, according to the report published in the Journal of Healthcare Management. There was no correlation between correct answers and job title or length of employment at Grady. 

"Before undertaking health equity work within and for a health system, it is vital to level-set what health equity means to health system employees at all levels and roles within the organization," the study's authors wrote. "Frontline health system staff, managers, or leaders cannot act on health equity if their notions of health equity are vague."

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