From May 16-18, the American Hospital Association (AHA) hosted their Accelerating Health Equity Conference in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Over 900 professionals gathered in Minneapolis to discuss innovative and strategic ways to accelerate health equity and improve community health.
I, along with my colleague, Liz Owens, had the privilege of traveling to the conference to present on HCIF’s Health Equity Data Strategy Collaborative. Our learning session titled, ”Starting with the Basics: Assembling and Activating REaL and SOGI data” was held during the second day of the conference and we were joined by Dr. Stormee Williams, Children’s Health in Texas, and Morgan Black, The Healthcare Association of New York State (HANYS) (pictured below). Each of our organizations were uniquely poised to share with the audience lessons learned about the collection and use of race, ethnicity, and language (REaL) and sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) data. Audience engagement was great, and reinforced that health systems are in very different places with this work – and that through collaboration we can learn so much from one another.
Throughout the three days of the conference, the agenda was layered with noteworthy speakers and breakouts that encouraged attendees to think outside the hospital walls, create cross-sectional partnerships, and overcome challenges to address health inequities (just to name a few!). In total, we heard from 3 distinguished keynote speakers and attended around 10 breakout sessions learning from well over 20 different organizations on topics that ranged from addressing equity in ambulatory settings to creating community support for older adults to the intersection of health care and criminal justice. Day 1 kicked off with Pulitzer Prize winner and bestselling author Isabel Wilkerson who pulled back the curtain on the impact the American caste system has on our society, and on the inequitable medical care Black and Brown patients receive compared to White patients, while offering a path forward for creating a just and equitable future for all. “This is a national health crisis that should move anyone in a position of power to act,” Wilkerson said.
On Day 2, Dr. Ivor Horn, director of health equity and social determinants of health at Google, discussed the landscape of technology in health care – including its promising possibilities and potential perils. Horn also explained how health care and equity leaders can understand and challenge technology to support patients, employees and communities.
The conference concluded with remarks from Brian Smedley, equity scholar at the Urban Institute. He shared lessons learned and offered actionable steps as the U.S. and world move to further address structural racism. Smedley reminded the audience to reframe the conversation to center on “the sources of strength and resilience in the marginalized communities we serve.”
Overall, the themes of collaboration and lifting community voice resonated throughout each of the sessions we attended. We left the conference energized. We re-connected with colleagues. We made new connections. We had meaningful conversations. And we will hold ourselves accountable to take what we learned and turn it into action to inform our work.
Finally, a special thank you to Carol Vianna from AHA for her patience and help in getting our group prepared to present at the conference! We couldn’t have done it without you!