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Philadelphia Inquirer: Philly Hospitals and Key Insurers Plan Novel Effort With the City To Improve Health Equity

From the Philadelphia Inquirer:

For the first time, the region’s largest health systems and its largest insurer are banding together to improve racial equity in health care in Philadelphia.

The collaboration, called Accelerate Health Equity, will use pilot programs to try out different approaches and share what is learned. The project will focus on 16 areas, ranging from substance abuse, maternal and infant mortality, obesity/diabetes, and racism in medical settings to food access, housing and community violence.

A steering committee with representatives from the 11 participating organizations is expected to meet every six weeks to coordinate and share lessons learned.

“Lots of groups have been working on this for many, many years,” said Raina Merchant, a Penn Medicine physician who is among the leaders of Accelerate Health Equity. “The pandemic and national awareness around racism has really elevated the discussion and provides an opportunity for collaboration across multiple stakeholders.”

“What’s different is that groups that don’t usually work together on health equity are coming together,“ said Merchant, a professor of emergency medicine and director of the University of Pennsylvania Health System’s Center for Digital Health. She and others in the effort used data from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s County Health Rankings to compare rates, for example, of cancer and cardiovascular disease in Philadelphia and nearby counties.

Racial disparities in cardiovascular health are a prime concern, Merchant said. For non-Hispanic Black Philadelphians, the age-adjusted rate of premature cardiovascular death is 79 per 100,000 people compared with 50 for non-Hispanic white Philadelphians, according to Accelerate Health Equity’s dashboard of health and related statistics. Read more at The Philadelphia Inquirer.