Black hospital board directors are boosting health equity through a coalition

To improve health equity, hospitals have got to start from the inside to reassess their commitments to the cause, measure what works and look at the issue through a new lens, according to a group of Black health executives. 

The Black Directors Health Equity Agenda is a coalition of Black healthcare executives who are dedicated to improving health equity and changing the industry from within. John Daniels, the chair, president and founding member of the BDHEA, spoke to Becker's about how the organization is working to make healthcare more equitable.

When attending a large conference for directors of health boards, Mr. Daniels realized that among the crowd of more than 100 people, he stood as the one of the only African Americans in the room. He knew though that there were many other Black directors of health systems across the country, so the next year, before the conference he along with other founding members convened to form the BDHEA. 

"The first year we ended up with a relatively small group of 12 or 15 directors and now we have 400 plus individuals in senior leadership involved in our organization, over 100 of which are directors of health systems around the country," Mr. Daniels said. "As best I can determine it is the largest organization of African American directors of health systems in the country."

As the organization has grown, it has come up with three main focuses:

"It is to identify certain disease states that affect African Americans more predominantly, and to develop actionable efforts to address those things to increase the talent in the pipeline of diverse individuals in the health ecosystem, and to drive efforts around solving social determinants of health by looking in a much more unique way that those things happen outside of health systems walls, that can really have a direct impact," he told Becker's.

One of the initiatives they've developed to improve how boards think about health equity is the director's playbook, made in partnership with Deloitte. 

"It is a compilation of material that helps people in the boardroom ask the right questions to cause management to devise, develop a much more effective approach around eliminating health inequity," said Mr. Daniels. "Health systems around the country have started using the playbook and sort of developing it for their own particular institution."

The playbook encourages board members to ask themselves what they are doing to improve health equity at their organizations and honestly think about their commitment to the cause. They're also looking into improving the diverse talent pipeline into healthcare leadership positions by partnering with historically black colleges and universities to increase the number of Black trainees and interns. 

Going forward, Mr. Daniels recommends two key things health systems can do to improve health equity: measuring what really works and considering community history. 

"Aggregating and having a trusted source of information around what really moves the needle on health equity issues is really very important because there's a ton of information out there," he said. 

"Then I think the other thing that is really very, very important is that the lens through which people see issues is a function of their history and their background. You've got to really understand that lens or you will miss what they're really trying to communicate to you."


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