4 Strategies for Improving Health Equity

Provider skills and services to create equitable access to care

Author: Julie DeLoia, PhD


4 Strategies Toward Achieving Health Equity

First, let’s explore what health equity means. Health equity is the state in which everyone has a fair and just opportunity to attain their highest level of health. Factors such as income, socioeconomic status, ethnicity, housing, language, education level, and access to healthcare and healthy food are important factors that contribute to a person’s level of health equity. Health equity issues impact people’s wellness on a daily basis. 

Given the many contributing factors related to health and wellness, making meaningful impacts will require a multi-faceted approach that involves contributions from all stakeholders, including government, providers, payers and communities. Providers, in particular, play a crucial role in improving health equity since they are the ones to interface with those impacted by the consequences of inequities. 

Here are four strategies that healthcare providers can implement to promote health equity:

  • Provide extensive and immersive front-line care training 

Cultural competency: In our multicultural society, different customs can lead to confusion and misunderstanding, which erode trust and patient adherence. Healthcare providers should strive to understand and respect cultural backgrounds, beliefs and practices of their patients. Culturally competent care ensures that patients from diverse backgrounds receive treatment that aligns with and is respectful of their values and needs. It all starts with warm and welcoming language when someone is first greeted.

Unconscious biases: Healthcare providers universally choose their professions to be able to help people. Yet, many are unaware of how their own background and experiences can influence how they interact and communicate with patients, leading to misunderstanding and lost trust. For those reasons, everyone will benefit from implicit bias training and ongoing self-reflection to help healthcare professionals provide safe equitable care to all patients.

Identify barriers to care: Patients may make direct or indirect indications that they are concerned about barriers in their care journey. Comments such as references to the high cost of medication, expressing anxiety at the volume of follow-up appointments,  taking time from work, or traveling to care facilities, should not go unheeded.  It is essential that providers listen carefully in order to incorporate ensure that support is provided to maintain continuity of care. 

  • Expand communication and outreach

Data collection and analysis: For providers to offer the best and most effective care, it’s important to recognize and understand the populations that are being served. There are several publicly available data sources that will help inform providers to the specific needs and health challenges of the community.  

Targeted outreach and engagement: Providers can actively engage in community outreach programs to educate and inform underserved populations about available healthcare services, preventive measures and health promotion initiatives. Such outreach can help bridge the information gap and empower individuals to make informed decisions about their health.

Health Literacy and language barriers: It is important to recognize that patients have different levels of health literacy and to provide information in clear, understandable language without the use of jargon.  Presentation of information should also be available in multiple languages if we are to improve understanding and help empower patients to actively participate in their own wellness.

  • Connect patients to valuable resources

Collaborations and partnerships: Providers can collaborate with community organizations, public health agencies and other stakeholders to address social determinants of health that contribute to health inequities. By working together, providers can develop comprehensive approaches to provide solutions to the underlying factors that affect health outcomes.

Address local issues: Provider organizations can also use data collection and analysis to ensure they are providing services that match the population health needs. Opioid and substance abuse, mold in housing, gun violence, food deserts and other critical issues provide opportunities for education and community partnership. 

  • Evaluate health system infrastructure, services and processes

Equitable resource allocation: Ensure that healthcare facilities are physically accessible to people with disabilities. Allocate resources, such as medical facilities, clinics, mobile units and medical professionals, in a way that considers the needs of underserved communities.

Language access: Providers should ensure language access for patients with limited English proficiency. This can include providing interpretation services, using professional interpreters or language assistance technologies and offering translated written materials.

Affordable Care: Providers can advocate for policies that support affordable healthcare for all, including advocating for Medicaid expansion, working with community organizations to connect patients with insurance options and offering sliding scale fees or other financial assistance programs for individuals who cannot afford care.

Diverse healthcare workforce: Encourage diversity within the healthcare workforce to create a more inclusive and understanding environment for patients from various backgrounds.

Collaboration and advocacy: Partner with other healthcare providers, organizations and policymakers to advocate for policies that promote health equity and reduce health disparities.

In summary, improving health equity requires careful planning and buy-in from stakeholders at every level. By building a plan to adopt these strategies, providers can contribute significantly to improving health equity and reducing disparities in healthcare access and outcomes for all individuals. Together, we can create an effective environment that understands and reacts positively to the social determinants of health.