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Inclusive Leadership Promotes Health Equity

By Deborah D. Phillips

DIVERSITY in frontline healthcare roles has proven to benefit patient care. If the objectives of diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives are to advance equity in access and quality, however, board diversity must first set the stage. Inclusive leadership galvanizes organizations in practices that give every person the opportunity to achieve their full health potential.

In clinical roles, Black, Indigenous and people of color relate across cultures and respond with empathy to social determinants of health. In board and executive roles, BIPOC practitioners can do more good outside the exam room. These medical professionals are specially qualified to bring a health equity lens into their governance roles. What they’ve seen as clinicians guides their vision to make equity, quality and fiscal responsibility possible.

As many Black doctors can testify, lives are at stake. Black people were 2.8 times more likely to be hospitalized for COVID-19 than whites, according to statistics compiled in “Prioritizing Health Equity in the Boardroom,” a playbook prepared

by the Black Directors Health Equity Agenda (BDHEA) and Deloitte Consulting. Death rates

for Black patients were nearly twice as high as for white patients.

The reasons for racial health disparities vary, from misinformation spread in Black communities to the lack of readily available vaccination resources. When I received my first COVID vaccine, not all sites accommodated patients after normal working hours. But I saw that UChicago Medicine had started to contact at-risk patients months before public health agencies authorized a larger vaccine rollout. The early outreach and extended appointment times were signs of a leadership commitment to the needs of vulnerable populations.

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