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Health Care New Castle County News

DHA Health Equity report shines light on initiatives

Katie Tabeling

The Delaware Healthcare Association released an equity report which highlights initiatives undertaken by Delaware’s hospital systems in the past year. | PHOTO COURTESY UNSPLASHED/ONLINE MARKETING

WILMINGTON — A year after the Delaware Healthcare Association (DHA) publicly made health equity a top priority, the trade association issued its first Health Equity Report to highlight measures that health care systems have been undertaking to break down barriers.

“Advancing health equity is a top priority for all Delaware hospitals,” DHA President and CEO Wayne Smith said in a statement. “Our members are in alignment in believing hospitals have a key role in ensuring every person can obtain the health care they need without bias, without discrimination, and with equal access to the health resources and information that will enable all to achieve their best possible health.”

Medical care impacts about 20% of the population’s overall health outcomes, while the remaining 80% is set by social determinations, according to the report. While Delaware’s health care systems strive to provide high-quality care to all, access can remain a challenge. Barriers exist such as transportation for rural residents or lack of cultural competence of health care professionals, among others.

“Health disparities and the need to address health equity are not unique to Delaware,” DHA Director of Communications Christina Crooks Bryan said. “However, we do have the benefit of being a small state and can work together with state partners and other health care stakeholders to move the needle on health equity.”

This report — and the mission statement outlined in 2021 — are prime examples of that. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the DHA board of directors, made up of chief executives of hospital systems in the state, met to discuss challenges their patients face in accessing care. Last year, the board passed a statement that outlined the state’s health care systems commitment to treat all patients with dignity, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation or gender identity.

These initiatives include Bayhealth working with the Food Bank of Delaware and the American Heart Association to connect residents in need with nonprofits to produce prepared meals and other healthy food items. Beebe Healthcare has become a hub for vaccine distribution in the state for federally designated at-risk patients, such as those who live with HIV, among others. It also focused on vaccine distribution for the outbreak of the Monkeypox Virus.

Other initiatives highlighted in the Health Equity Report include ChristianaCare’s recently established Gender Wellness program, which offers therapy options, resources and referrals to patients 13 or older experiencing gender dysphoria. Nemours Children’s Health partnered with the Seaford School District to produce physical and behavioral health services at an elementary school.

Saint Francis Hospital has changed its model to partner with organizations to enhance the hospital’s services in economically challenged neighborhoods. So far, Delaware Hospice and Merakey have committed to working with Saint Francis.

TidalHealth Nanticoke continued to work with the Institute of Healthcare Improvement’s Pursuing Equity Learning Network, a collaborative focused on racial justice in health care. As a result, TidalHealth Nanticoke formed a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion task force which has issued recommendations to implement in the health care system’s broader strategic plan.

The DHA is continuing to guide Delaware’s health care systems, as its board of directors also adopted a policy to have all hospitals participate in the  American Hospital Association’s Health Equity Roadmap. The roadmap is to drive improvement for health care outcomes as well as diversity and inclusion. Delaware was the first state in the nation to have all general and pediatric acute care hospitals to commit to it.


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