Seize the Moment to Improve Health Equity: Patricia Baker’s Keynote Speech at the Hartford Business Journal’s 2011 Health Care Heroes Award Luncheon
“Avoidable, preventable and unfair,” is what Patricia Baker,President & CEO of the Connecticut Health Foundation (CT Health), said about health inequalities last week during her keynote address at the Hartford Business Journal’s Health Care Heroes annual awards luncheon. Patricia’s message left the 11 honorees and 250 attendees made up of health and business professionals with questions, some answers, and plenty to think about. She, in essence, challenged those of us in the audience to be the change we seek to make.
Seize the Moment to Improve Health Equity
Good afternoon. I am honored to join you today as we recognize these health heroes that every day … make a difference in people’s lives. We are at a critical time, one which needs all of us to act with commitment that the heroes today have demonstrated. We can do so by inserting ourselves into the process to inform decisions about health reform in order to build an equitable system for residents in Connecticut.
The promotion of health equity means that we are consciously making decisions that work to eliminate health disparities by addressing those factors that are avoidable and unfair, which is what we all want.
Think of it this way: This state and our communities have a chance to define health reform for the future, but this comes with a lot of questions, which include:
- Will all Connecticut residents have access, and how are they treated once they get through the door?
- Are all treated fairly regardless of race and ethnicity?
- Does your zip code play a significant role in determining your health status as it often does for those of Parkville and the West End of Hartford, which rated lowest among Hartford neighborhoods with regards to respiratory health?
- Why is asthma, a leading problem for children in Hartford where blacks and Latinos both experience asthma 4 times more than whites?
Please know that health outcomes are not just a product of treatment, but rather our health is a product of the interplay of where we live, learn, play, and work.
I know that building an equitable system can sound grandiose- bigger than all of us because it is about more than my behavior- it is about policies and practices and … I take heart because I have seen individuals and organizations make a difference right here in Connecticut. CT Health has seen this play out with our health leadership fellows, our grantees and our partners.
Not only are nonprofit organizations stepping up to improve health equity, so are public institutions, such as the Connecticut Department of Social Services (DSS), a state agency whose policies impact tens of thousands of people. DSS is rolling out a patient centered medical home, whose goal is the reduction of racial and ethnic health disparities. This system change shows great promise in reducing health disparities.
In 2014, implementation of health care reform is to take place; and from here on out, we have to decide on the rules. The issue is what are the goals of this reform? Are we building a system that focuses and supports prevention for those at risk, and are all of these efforts built on the principle of health equity?
We have the opportunity to take the individual and collective effort to ensure health systems that can advance health equity by tailoring care to meet individual needs and ensuring that care does not vary in quality based on personal characteristics such as race, ethnicity and gender. This will require social, public health and health system interventions. We need a sufficient number of providers, an authentic medical team with solid health data and accountability behind them, and a health delivery system connected and coordinated with other community resources and public health.
I am encouraged because every day people are working to make a difference to create an equitable health system.
Our work in addressing this injustice may not be flashy and dramatic, but it is heroic.