Across the past couple years, we've seen the impacts of Covid-19 and racial injustice underscore immense inequities in the U.S. health care system. While leaders from every sector of the health care industry have made commitments to addressing equity, it's clear that reversing generations of inequity won't happen overnight.
Advancing health equity is a continual process that requires regular action. Every member of the health care industry must commit to sharing power and working together to make meaningful change. Facility planners are one piece of this larger puzzle.
As the creators of health care facilities, you have major control over the placement, design, and accessibility of your buildings. You can use this power to steer clients towards more equitable decisions, building trust within their communities.
There are three intersecting pillars that define an equitable organization – creating a diverse workforce, ensuring equitable patient outcomes, and addressing community-wide social determinants of health. To make meaningful progress on health equity, leaders must ground their actions in all three pillars.
1. Creating a diverse workforce
Examine your internal workforce. Staff at all levels, including business leaders, should represent the community across all domains of diversity. HR leaders must redesign talent management processes by focusing on historically marginalized employees, including with salary adjustments, equitable mentorship, and advancement opportunities.
Executives should equip staff and leaders to embrace discomfort and hold each other accountable for creating a culture where all employees feel included, respected, and valued.
2. Ensuring equitable patient outcomes
This may seem like a difficult pillar to address as you don't work with patients directly. But your facility design directly impacts patient outcomes. Encourage your clients and community leaders to consider questions such as these when considering new facilities:
All of these questions have implications for designing facilities that improve access and trust within the communities you serve. It's a potentially difficult conversation to have, but it's also a necessary one in order to advance health equity together.
3. Addressing community-wide social determinants of health
Architecture and facility firm leaders should partner with community-based organizations, local businesses, government, and industry stakeholders to sustainably address adverse social determinants of health in their communities.
Opportunities include serving as an anchor institution to uplift the economic strength of the community by hiring locally, paying fair wages, and contracting with people of color and/or women-owned vendors.. If you interact with government at the local, state, and federal levels, advocate for policies that mitigate existing disparities and create new solutions to support equity.
Finally, in order to ensure efforts don't fall short, I'd recommend keeping these six steps in mind to further accelerate equity at your organization and externally:
Making a meaningful community impact will take long-term commitments, meaningful performance indicators, and solutions that can scale. Leaders will need to commit to transparency and lead with vulnerability to make this work, but the long-term results are well worth it.
To make meaningful progress on health equity, leaders must ground their actions in three comprehensive and interconnecting pillars.
Each segment of the health care industry has a role to play—here are just a few ways to start bridging the equity gap.
Create your free account to access 2 resources each month, including the latest research and webinars.
You have 2 free members-only resources remaining this month remaining this month.
Never miss out on the latest innovative health care content tailored to you.