Answers to these questions provide an opportune starting point for identifying areas to improve care by reducing access inequities and outcome variations. Leaders representing populations experiencing significant disparities are best-suited to initiate the conversations that will help address inequality within healthcare organizations and communities. Yet often, those sitting at the table do not offer a fair representation of the community's diversity. As a result, organizations may lack knowledge of the challenges facing different racial, ethnic and socio-economic groups.
To decrease disparities, the first step needs to be leadership equity. This is only achieved through the intentional cultivation and strategic inclusion of diverse leaders in management, governance and care delivery. This can't be undertaken as a “feel-good” approach. Instead, strengthening the organization's leadership diversity must be a strategy to improve health outcomes by ensuring that executives and providers represent the communities being served. Yet many C-suites and boardrooms do not have an intentional plan to achieve that objective. And it will not happen without commitment and intent.
Making the connection between health equity and leadership equity is not an easy path, but it is a journey that all organizations must take to improve the well-being of the populations they serve. At their core, leaders at all levels of an organization must have the vision, desire and capacity to work with community partners to deliver effective healthcare, as well as offer a broad array of social services designed to drive meaningful and measurable outcomes improvement.
This cultural transformation starts with a board-supported strategy implemented across the organization. The strategy can be accomplished by using metrics to measure successful diversification of leadership and holding executives accountable for results. It includes identifying an organizational champion—preferably at the board level—to create equitable leadership development tracks.
While meeting the challenges of population health improvement is no simple task, with the essential ingredients of diverse leadership and grass-roots collaboration, communities will begin to make real progress.