Palmetto Health leaders, Vince Ford, chief community services officer, and Cynthia Walters, Ed.D., corporate director of Diversity and Inclusion, have been selected to participate in the Disparities Leadership Program, a yearlong executive leadership program designed to tackle racial and ethnic disparities in health care. Only 38 individuals from 18 health care organizations around the United States were selected. They will join 142 other organizations who have participated in the Disparities Leadership Program since 2007.
The Disparities Leadership Program is the first program of its kind in the nation, and is designed for leaders from hospitals, health insurance plans, and other health care organizations who are seeking to develop practical strategies to eliminate racial and ethnic disparities in health care. The program is led by the Disparities Solutions Center at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) in Boston, Massachusetts.
Charles D. Beaman, Jr., Palmetto Health CEO, said, “At Palmetto Health, we are committed to fostering a climate of diversity and inclusion in our organization. Diversity is not only about race, ethnicity, gender, religion and age – but also about thought processes, abilities and leadership styles, to name a few. We believe diversity brings strength to our health care system. It’s the best way to ensure we are working together to meet our communities’ health care needs.”
The program is designed to create leaders prepared to meet the challenges of health care transformation by improving quality for at-risk populations who experience disparities. The program has three main goals:
Joseph R. Betancourt, M.D., M.P.H., director of the Disparities Solutions Center at MGH, said, “This program is about developing new leaders and taking action. It is about helping individuals and their health care organizations understand the critical connection between improving quality and eliminating disparities in care through a concerted, coordinated effort to change our health care system.”
Betancourt is a member of the Institute of Medicine (IOM) Committee, which produced the 2002 landmark report Unequal Treatment: Confronting Racial/Ethnic Disparities in Health Care. This report revealed striking disparities in the quality of health care services delivered to minority and white patients -- even for patients of the same socioeconomic background and access to care. “These health care organizations are clearly distinguishing themselves as national leaders by taking action to identify and address disparities,” Dr. Betancourt said.
Created in July 2005 as the nation’s first, hospital-based disparities center, the Disparities Solutions Center has significant experience in addressing racial and ethnic disparities in care. The Center has worked with several leading health plans across the country (Aetna, Blue Cross-Blue Shield of Massachusetts, Blue Cross-Blue Shield of Florida, among others) to develop strategies to identify and eliminate disparities. In addition, the Center faculty has staffed the Massachusetts General Hospital Committee on Racial and Ethnic Disparities, pioneering activities such as the Disparities Dashboard, an innovative way to identify and monitor disparities, as well as the development of a culturally competent diabetes disease management program. The faculty also has played an important role in the well-recognized effort among Boston hospitals to eliminate disparities under the leadership of the Boston Public Health Commission. These experiences have uniquely positioned DSC faculty to provide training to those interested in addressing disparities through quality improvement.
The Disparities Leadership Program is jointly sponsored by the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA), and supported by Joint Commission Resources (JCR), an affiliate of the Joint Commission.