While US health disparities have been the focus of remediation efforts for decades, COVID-19 created shared urgency and a common language for all to understand their extent and impact on a national stage. Health inequities are the cumulative result of a biased system, the lived experiences of diverse individuals and the challenging environments that impact all dimensions of people’s lives.
Health equity is an aspirational goal whereby all people experience similar health outcomes regardless of race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, education, neighborhood or other potentially disadvantaging social and structural determinants of health. Progress is challenged by systemic drivers that are rooted in a history of overt and covert bias in US society, and by extension, in US medicine.
Health equity has become an organizational priority for many sectors across the health value chain. Understanding how other organizations are approaching health equity within and across sectors can provide important learnings for peers seeking to drive impact on outcomes and delivery. No single organization can solve the issue on its own. Health equity initiatives necessitate collaborative coordinated action underpinned by strategic intent and measurable outcomes.
The inaugural EY Center for Health Equity Annual Survey provides insights into how organizations are addressing the challenge of overcoming health disparities and driving toward health equity goals. It sheds light on current health equity objectives, priorities, barriers, and where leaders see the field moving from here.
To capture these insights, Ernst & Young LLP (EY US) surveyed 500 leaders across provider, payer, public health, life sciences, not-for-profit and community organizations who are responsible for developing or executing efforts related to health equity or disparities within their organizations. The survey specifically explored six areas critical to organizational health equity impact:
- Health equity strategy
- Data and analytics
- Diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI)
- Clinical research
- Community engagement and ecosystem partnerships
The inaugural EY Center for Health Equity Annual Survey demonstrated strong cross-sector momentum in the health equity space. Provider, payer, public health, life sciences, not-for-profit and community organizations are developing strategies, investing in a diverse set of health equity-oriented priorities and building an infrastructure to drive efforts.
Surveyed organizations are tackling health equity from multiple angles — creating opportunities for broad impact. A lack of cohesive industry priorities also runs the potential risk of spreading resources thin and inhibiting targeted collective action. Variance reported in how organizations have designed their health equity strategies also suggests an opportunity for further ecosystem alignment on the most promising approaches and key actions needed to make progress.
The following report will provide detailed insights on findings across each of the six areas of exploration. Select findings below illustrate the observed current state and direction of health equity activities across the market.
Chart 1. Overview of key survey findings, including total number of survey participants by organization type, percentage of health equity strategies started during COVID-19 (within the past three years), top health equity priority across the market and top barrier to health equity strategy development across the market.