Friday, August 14, 2020
Aug. 14, 2020

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State joins effort to cut health disparities

7-team collaboration hopes to increase ‘equitable health’

By , Columbian staff writer
Published:

The Community Health Plan of Washington has joined with health care organizations from six other states in a collaboration aimed at creating new Medicaid models that reduce health disparities and increase what the group calls “equitable health.”

“This enabled us to focus on an area where we know there’s a disparity, and together take action to know what the causes are and intervene,” said Leanne Berge, CEO of CHPW and its parent organization, Community Health Network of Washington.

Over the next two years, participants in the Advancing Health Equity Learning Collaborative will design payment models that support high-quality and lower-cost care, but also intend to reduce or eliminate health disparities — differences in care that typically result in poorer outcomes for ethnically or culturally diverse populations.

The teams plan to address the impact of social determinants — conditions such as education, socioeconomic status, physical environment — on health at the individual level and through development and implementation of policy recommendations to change or counteract the negative effects of those social determinants.

Berge said there are plans to develop areas of focus within the next six months. She said resources can eventually be targeted toward specific communities and areas in the form of funding and outreach.

Increased infant mortality rates for African American children, low immunization rates for certain communities and low adherence rates for depression medication in Spanish-speaking communities are examples of areas that could be improved through this initiative, according to Berge. She hopes the work can build on some of the research and work the Washington Department of Health has already done.

“This collaboration is an opportunity to make meaningful progress to the goal of advancing equitable health care and reducing health disparities,” Berge said in the press release. “At CHPW and CHNW, we are committed to meeting the needs and improving the health of Washington’s communities. We are honored to be the only West Coast team selected and to represent Washington in this important, first of its kind initiative.”

Seven national teams have been chosen for the project: Washington, Delaware, Illinois, Maine, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Tennessee. The collaborative is part of the “Advancing Health Equity: Leading Care, Payment, and Systems Transformation” program funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

The states involved in the initiative can help each other through consistent webinars that will be held, as well as with technical assistance and sharing ideas.

“Working together we can accomplish something that we may not be able to do our own,” Berge said.

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