Health equity is essential to measure, improve population health

Health equity for all is essential to measure and improve population health, and that means the healthcare industry must allocate resources to reduce disparities in care, a public health expert writes in Harvard Business Review. 

Even as the Affordable Care Act strives to make quality healthcare available to everyone, disparities remain for people who are in low-income brackets or who live in areas where these services are not readily available, says Sandro Galea, M.D., dean of the Boston University School of Public Health, in the HBR piece. 

"Closing those gaps should be at the heart of efforts to measure and improve population health, even it means sacrificing some efficiency," he writes.

Population health is difficult to measure and the results of improvement initiatives are hard to quantify across social, racial and economic groups, according to Galea. But it's important to find an appropriate measure because poor health in some groups threatens the health of all groups, he writes.

Hospitals are making efforts to close these gaps. For example, to help reduce healthcare disparities in the Detroit area, the Henry Ford Health System collects information about race, ethnicity and language on 80 percent of its patients. Since patients in the area are culturally diverse and 60 different languages are spoken in the community, the healthcare system trains staff to ask patients questions to determine their care needs and how to best serve them, FierceHealthcare previously reported. 

And earlier this year Permanente Medical Group CEO Robert Pearl, M.D. wrote about the organization's successful efforts to eliminate disparities by developing health education tools that cater to different segments of the population, investing in interpretation services for bilingual patients and partnering with the community to foster outreach and care coordination.

To learn more:
read the HBR article