Moving Health Equity From a Buzzword to Reality
Dec 9, 2020
Sutter Health
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Sutter Health Launches the Institute for Advancing Health Equity, Enhancing its Commitment to Eliminate Health Disparities

New California-Based Innovation Hub Will Accelerate Sutter’s Data-Driven Research & Evidence-Based Solutions

Sacramento, Calif. — Northern California-based Sutter Health today announced the creation of its Institute for Advancing Health Equity, marking another major step in the not-for-profit system’s work to help eliminate health disparities within its integrated network and across the United States. Health inequities among specific population groups and geographic areas have long been identified as one of the major deficiencies of the U.S. health care system, and, as a national leader in health care quality, Sutter Health is dedicated to continuing to drive actions, like today’s Institute launch, to foster more equitable health outcomes for all.

Building on more than a decade of experience in health equity research and patient-centered solutions, the Institute will serve as an innovation incubator that generates knowledge and shares its expertise to eliminate health disparities. Leveraging the resources and reach provided by Sutter’s coordinated network, the new Institute will

• Facilitate pragmatic research that can be directly applied in clinical settings using Sutter’s existing health equity metrics and proven data analytics.
• Promote clinical and community-based initiatives and develop trainings to tackle and prevent disparities among patient populations.
• Convene experts, advocates and patients to explore health inequities and generate evidence-based solutions.

“At Sutter Health, we have been working for years to advance health equity and eliminate gaps in health outcomes for vulnerable patient groups. For example, we are incredibly proud that our C-section and maternal mortality rates now sit well below California’s nationally leading average and our maternal mortality rate demonstrates no inequity in race or ethnicity. The establishment of the Institute is a crucial next step in our commitment to providing more equitable outcomes and overcoming injustices in the nation’s health care system,” said Sarah Krevans, president and CEO, Sutter Health.

A Proven Track Record of Advancing Health Equity

Since its establishment, Sutter’s Advancing Health Equity team has focused on developing insights and solutions to improve health outcomes for all patients. Over the past several years, our experienced team of clinicians, researchers and administrators have examined data in a number of areas to address inequities — including maternal health, chronic disease management, opioid prescribing behavior, cancer screening and, most recently, COVID-19. Highlights include:

Health Equity Index (HEI): This groundbreaking metric developed by Sutter uses analytics and dynamic population data to measure health disparities across patient groups and develop interventions to enhance equity. Sutter applied the HEI within its own network and shared the tool with other health systems so they can generate comparable insights.

Maternal Care Collaboration: Through our work with a statewide public-private partnership on maternal health, and by employing best practices over the last several years, Sutter Health’s C-section and maternal mortality rates currently sit well below California’s nationally leading average. Our maternal mortality and c-section rates also demonstrates equitable care across racial and ethnic groups.

Asthma in Oakland’s African American Community: Using the HEI, Sutter identified higher-than- expected rates of emergency visits for asthma among African American patients in Oakland. The insights led directly to a new collaboration on a community-based program for Black patients in East Oakland and Berkeley to support asthma management.

COVID-19 Disparities: An analysis of Sutter’s COVID-19 patients revealed Black patients are nearly three times more likely to be hospitalized than their non-Hispanic, white counterparts and they arrive on average later and sicker to Sutter facilities. This research is yielding a better understanding of the national conversation around COVID-19’s disproportionate impact on communities of color and has fueled the Health Equity team’s efforts to partner with community-based programs that aim to expand testing and contact tracing for the most vulnerable.

A Microcosm for the Nation — Sutter is Well Positioned to Tackle Disparities

As an integrated health care delivery network serving more than 3 million patients across 22 Northern California counties, Sutter Health serves one of the most geographically and demographically diverse patient populations in the country. That diversity extends across Sutter’s clinical settings and data environments, providing the team with unmatched access to the resources and reach necessary to generate robust findings around health disparities and test new models for advancing health equity that can be applied nationally.

“By creating the Institute, Sutter continues to lean into the incredible insights and benefits provided by our integrated network to drive solutions on key issues like health equity,” said Dr. Stephen Lockhart, chief medical officer, Sutter Health. “Transforming health care to make it more equitable will impact countless lives, meeting our mission of providing compassionate, high-quality care that affords the same high-quality outcomes to everyone, regardless of their circumstances. I am so proud to be furthering our commitment to eliminate health disparities through today’s actions.”

About the Institute for Advancing Health Equity

Embedded within the Sutter Health system, the Institute for Advancing Health Equity will leverage the network’s resources, data and partnerships to not only examine where health inequities exist but find ways to better address them.

“We have an opportunity and obligation to move beyond bringing these issues to light. We must begin to develop proactive solutions to address and prevent health inequity and disparities that can be translated into our care settings and communities,” said Kristen Azar RN MSN/MPH, the new institute’s scientific medical director, Sutter Health.

With the equivalent of approximately six dedicated full-time employees to start, and growing to 11 over the next few years, the team will increase awareness of health disparities, influence policy and design interventions that can be applied within their network and beyond.

“Our Institute’s unique data-driven, evidence-based model fills a much-needed gap in the work to better understand and address health disparities,” said Leon Clark, chief research and health equity officer, Sutter Health. “By launching a formal hub, Sutter and those we collaborate with can accelerate our ability to share knowledge, establish proven best practices and create a more equitable health care system for generations to come.”

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