23-Q&C-299-Advance Health Equity & Belonging Blog 02. Blog Image-MD-FINAL (1)

Three Components for Advancing Health Equity and Belonging in Healthcare

September 27, 2023
September 27, 2023

Ensuring that everyone has the same opportunity to attain their full health potential while also building an internal culture that is inclusive and welcoming is essential, but not necessarily the easiest of the tasks facing healthcare boards. Ethical board leadership means that, among other things, board leaders need to be sure that they are doing everything possible to ensure health equity and belonging.


The Case for Health Equity and Belonging

Portia Newman, Ph.D., Associate Partner and AVP, Education and Engagement for Chartis shared how board leadership is essential to the development of health equity and belonging strategies. “Boards are increasingly expected to embody greater thoughtfulness and effectiveness in their capacity to represent the diverse array of demographics within a community. Board leadership stands as a powerful instrument. They have a responsibility to shape a strategy that fosters health equity and a sense of belonging. By comprehending the complex requisites of the community, boards can engage key stakeholders to develop an organization strategy capable of yielding transformation change for the patients they serve,” said Dr Newman.

Failure to develop a cohesive strategy that addresses both health equity and the organization’s internal culture of belonging comes with some consequences. The time to ensure that board members are prepared to govern in this new performance landscape is now. Boards will need to lead the way in establishing strategies that address the entirety of the healthcare needs of the community. They will also need to ensure that they are supporting the kind of internal culture where everyone feels that they belong. Board members need to be prepared to demonstrate leadership on these issues in an age of disruption and transformation in healthcare.

Failing to address health equity can result in poor health outcomes in the community. Ignoring internal belonging issues can increase burnout and turnover amongst a workforce that is already experiencing record high incidences of both. Many factors can influence community perceptions of healthcare organizations and being perceived as an organization that performs poorly on health equity and belonging can be damaging to an organization’s image and contribute to poor financial performance.

Boards have a critical role in health equity and belonging. They need to lead from an informed position, model the behavior they expect, provide clear expectations and direction in the development of strategy, and be able to document progress in the health of the community.


A Strategic Approach to Health Equity and Belonging

There are three critical components that boards should address when considering strategies to address health equity and belonging. Boards should have a plan to:


  • Assess: Assessment is an essential component. It will shed light on board-readiness, knowledge and their inclination to act on these issues and serve as a baseline against which progress may be measured.
  • Educate: While managers and frontline staff will need to be educated as well, boards need to take steps towards developing a thorough understanding of the issues along with an understanding of the consequences of failing to address those issues. Options might include board retreats, both didactic and interactive learning opportunities, and individual coaching.
  • Sustain: Once the education has been translated into strategy and action plans, it is also important to support the process with plans to sustain organizational efforts and maintain an appropriate level of focus on the issues.


Supporting Efforts to Build Health Equity and Belonging

HealthStream can help your board and staff to understand their role in building health equity and belonging. HealthStream’s Health Equity and Belonging Education can help your organization build and sustain a culture that supports health equity and belonging with comprehensive, expert content. The content addresses a range of topics from different perspectives and includes a library of evolving content developed by nationally recognized experts on the topic.