Inequities in health care services, delivery and outcomes are pervasive across our system, and every hospital and health system should be able to pinpoint where disparities exist in order to create healthier, more equitable communities. As the first hospital to integrate inequity measurements into its operational strategies, Trillium Health Partners (THP) sets a precedent for other health systems, signaling a shift towards proactive measures aimed at reducing disparities.

The Inequity Measurement Workshop, funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and led by the Institute for Better Health (IBH) at THP, brought together community-based organization representatives, researchers, health equity leaders, health system leaders, academic partners, students and more from across Canada and abroad to discuss this topic, as well as new and existing approaches to measuring inequities and standardizing the reporting in health systems in order to monitor, increase accountability and implement strategies to reduce disparities.

The two-day workshop was organized by IBH’s Population Health team, Dr. Laura Rosella, Stephen Family Research Chair in Population Health and Scientist, Aliya Allen-Valley, Research Lead, Joanna Dos Santos, Research Associate I, and Joselyne Bolanos, Administrative Assistant.

“Understanding where gaps in service exist is critical,” says Aliya. “We believe every hospital and health system should be able to report on who is  ̶  and is not  ̶  being served within their systems and to understand the disparities more specifically and better plan and orient services.”

Through enriching discussions, participants learned about local and international processes for inequity measurement, how to authentically partner with the communities they serve, and how to integrate and report who in our community is receiving the health services they need to inform the improvement of health care in our region.

Bringing together diverse health systems highlighted the range of barriers and facilitators to integrating inequity metrics experienced in different settings and enabled shared learning. “We hope that this will lead to having an accepted approach to inequity measurement, and see this workshop as the beginning of an ongoing discussion about how we can work collaboratively across systems to reach this goal,” says Aliya.

Here are four key takeaways:

  • Learning from health systems and organizations in different jurisdictions both nationally and internationally was key to understanding what is possible and the practical steps we can take to measure and address inequities within our unique contexts.
  • Fostering and building meaningful connections and partnerships with our diverse communities to better understand what factors enable or serve as barriers to accessing important services. Only through partnership and authentic relationships can we generate solutions that address the disparities revealed through the measurement processes.
  • Partnering with organizations that serve our communities (i.e., health care organizations, primary care and other community organizations like food banks, housing resources, faith-based organizations, etc.) will enable us to address the upstream factors that contribute to the inequities we see in the health system.
  • It is important to pair local-level insights in the form of data and stories and high-level inequity measures at the system and jurisdictional level (i.e., on a provincial or national level) to paint a more well-rounded picture of the variation in needs and experiences across different settings and the needed solutions tailored to the local context.

As leaders in population health, IBH and THP are advancing several groundbreaking initiatives to measure and act upon inequities, and are well-positioned to share our approaches and learnings with other organizations and health systems to foster healthier communities. By showcasing real-world measurements, engaging directly with our communities, and continuing to learn from each other, we can advance collaboration, education and action on health equity.

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