BCBSA, Nemours Children's and Cityblock Health join cross-industry health equity pledge

Close-up of handshake between person in suit and person in business shirt.
The pledge includes a commitment to collect data on race, ethnicity, language and sex, which are not currently standardized and impact healthcare organizations’ ability to enact equity-driven interventions. (Getty Images/FS-Stock)

Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, Cancer Treatment Centers of America and Northwell Health joined dozens of other big players in healthcare committing to a new health equity pledge.

The Health Equity Pledge was developed over the past year by the Health Evolution Forum, a collective of payer, provider and life science leaders aiming to accelerate equity in healthcare and outcomes. The goal was to determine a set of standards for collecting and analyzing disparities data on race, ethnicity, language and sex (otherwise known as REaLS). The data are not currently standardized and impact healthcare organizations’ ability to enact equity-driven interventions. 

“A concerted commitment to such collection and stratification for all key quality and performance metrics is critical to understanding and, most important, redressing disparities,” said Health Evolution President Richard Schwartz in a press release

RELATED: Icahn Mount Sinai and historically Black medical school Meharry partner to address racism, improve diversity in science

The pledge includes committing over the next three years to collecting REaLS data on at least 50% of a patient or member population, regularly reviewing these data and sharing findings with peers through the Health Evolution Health Equity Learning Lab to shape best practices.

Some of the biggest organizations to have signed on already include Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, Cancer Treatment Centers of America, Harvard Medical Faculty Physicians at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Northwell Health, University of California Health and Capital Rx.

According to a 2021 survey conducted by the Health Evolution Forum, while most organizations track at least some data on patient or member race and ethnicity, fewer collect data on language and sex. And less than one-third of organizations regularly review the data they collect.

“Too few organizations are actually analyzing disparities data internally, developing dashboards, embedding it into clinical workflows and making it public,” said Laurie Zephyrin, M.D., Forum fellow and vice president of Advancing Health Equity at The Commonwealth Fund, in a statement.

RELATED: Providers are putting more focus than ever on health equity. Here's how payers can support them

“You can’t manage what you can’t measure,” said Mark Smith, M.D., founding president and former CEO of California Health Care Foundation, during a webcast to discuss the initiative on Tuesday. He emphasized that organizations not already collecting these types of data are missing opportunities to improve their care. “My sense is anyone who wants to go to work on this problem can go to work on it tomorrow,” Smith said.

“This isn’t complicated, we just need to decide that we’re going to do it and commit to it,” Larry Moss, M.D., president and CEO of Nemours Children’s Health, another health system that committed to the pledge, echoed during the panel.

The pledge is the latest among a slew of initiatives born out of the COVID-19 pandemic focused on health and racial equity.