to main content Leadership: Making Health Care Equity a Strategic Priority | The Joint Commission

Advancing Health Care Equity

The latest thought leadership and insights on advancing diversity, equity and inclusion in health care.

Leadership: Making Health Care Equity a Strategic Priority

06/22/2023

Health Care Equity Certification – Part 1 of 5

By Christina Cordero, PhD, MPH, Senior Project Director, Healthcare Standards Development

Editor’s note: This blog post is part of a series highlighting each domain of the Health Care Equity certification program.

While The Joint Commission envisions a future in which all people always experience safe, high-quality health care, we know there is much work to be done in our nation’s health care sector to achieve this. Health care quality and health outcomes are often worse for:

  • Racial and ethnic minorities
  • Women
  • People living in rural communities
  • People with disabilities
  • People living in poverty
  • People with lower educational attainment
  • Members of the LGBTQ+ community
  • Other historically marginalized groups

Many hospitals across the United States have recognized this significant and challenging problem and are undertaking strategies to address health care disparities across the spectrum of care.

The Joint Commission recently launched its Health Care Equity certification for hospitals, available July 1, 2023, intended to recognize hospitals that have established a robust set of structures and processes designed to improve health care equity.

There are five domains to the Health Care Equity certification to support the health care team on its journey to provide more equitable care, the first of which is Leadership.

Commitment to health care equity must come from the top down, including from the executive leadership team and the board. Leaders must demonstrate through their words, actions and decisions that equity is a priority.

Strategic Planning

A health care organization’s strategic plan should clearly identify its goals for reducing health care disparities and providing equitable care to all patients. Organizations are able to determine how they want to incorporate health care equity into their strategic plan and can include initiatives to address equity for their patients as well as for their staff and leaders.

Organization leaders are responsible for developing and executing strategies to reach these goals and to hold their teams accountable to achieve and sustain the goals outlined in the strategic plan.

Board Involvement

A hospital’s governing board must address health care equity like any other patient safety or quality concern. While some organizations’ health care equity efforts end at the executive leadership team, a leading organization will have the full support and involvement of their board.

Board members will not only understand the disparities the hospital faces but will be engaged in discussions with the executive team about how to most effectively address those disparities.

Allocation of Resources

Health care is expensive – and all quality and safety improvement initiatives require budget allocation to support the implementation of new processes and policies.

Health care equity initiatives must be properly funded for health care organizations to reduce health care disparities and provide equitable care, treatment and services. Organizations are expected to outline the financial resources needed for their health care equity initiatives in their budget.

The path to achieving health care equity is long and difficult, but dedicated leadership are already making improvements to provide equitable care to patients across the country. The Joint Commission’s Health Care Equity Certification Resource Center contains examples and tools to help leaders reflect their commitment to health care equity regardless of where they are on their journey.

Christina Cordero is a Senior Project Director, Healthcare Standards Development in the Division of Healthcare Quality Evaluation and Improvement at The Joint Commission.

Dr. Cordero leads standards development projects for new accreditation and certification requirements and survey processes across multiple settings and programs. She serves as a subject matter expert for several topics, including health care equity, antibiotic stewardship and telehealth. Prior to joining The Joint Commission, she conducted basic science and public health research at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, Chicago.