Ochsner Health Improves Communities Through Healthcare Equity and Workforce Diversity

by savoystaff

Dr. Eboni Price- Haywood and Deborah Grimes are shaping healthcare through equity, diversity, and inclusion. To improve health outcomes and end longstanding racial disparities, it’s apparent that we must increase diversity in medicine. A groundbreaking new study in JAMA Network Open provides evidence, as researchers show Black people live longer when they have greater access to Black doctors in their communities.

This is critical for Louisiana, which experiences some of the most striking health disparities in the nation. Racial minorities have substantially higher rates of poor physical and mental health, and Black residents of the state experience higher infant and maternal mortality and higher rates of premature death than their majority population counterparts.

To address this reality, Ochsner Health has adopted a holistic approach to health equity for families throughout the Gulf Coast, while embracing inclusion and diversity within our workforce. This is integral to Ochsner’s delivery of superior care and patients-first mindset.

Many of these efforts are overseen by Eboni Price-Haywood, MD, MPH, FACP, Medical Director of Healthy State by 2030, a collaborative plan with local and state leaders and organizations across public and private sectors to realize a more equitable and healthier Louisiana.

One longstanding Ochsner partner is Xavier University of Louisiana, and as part of Healthy State they launched Ochsner- Xavier Institute for Health Equity and Research (OXIHER). As OXIHER’s director, Dr. Price-Haywood collaborates with external partners and internal diversity teams to drive outcomes.

A recent example of this research is a new weight loss program that uses technology and health coaching to help Black adults with prediabetes or Type 2 diabetes improve their health- related quality of life.

“Through a lens of equity, Ochsner and partners commit to reducing health inequities, developing innovative healthcare delivery, and modeling equitable and respectful care,” said Dr. Price-Haywood. “We use outcomes research, community engagement and health advocacy to investigate and create solutions for the challenges faced today.”

Internally, Ochsner pursues high standards and accountability by embracing workforce inclusivity. Ochsner’s diversity and inclusion programs launched nearly a decade ago with Ochsner Resource Groups and were the appointment of a Chief Diversity Officer in 2020. With System Vice President Deborah Grimes, RN, JD, MSHQS leading, Ochsner adopted inclusivity as a system core value last year.

“Diversity is like a great piece of jazz music,” Grimes said. “If you have just the trumpet, or just the drums, you don’t have much. You miss the texture, complexity and beauty of all of the instruments playing together. It can be more challenging playing with an entire jazz band– but the music you create is far better.”

At the core of this effort is an Ochsner executive leadership and board of directors’ decision to set a numerical target for leadership representation, committing to 25% Black, indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) in positions at the Assistant Vice President level and above by 2025.

Ochsner has also adopted a Momentum Mentorship program to advance employees belonging to populations traditionally excluded from leadership. This initiative features one-on- one mentoring with a senior leader and other professional development opportunities.

Membership in internal Ochsner Resource Groups also expanded. There are now 6,500 employees engaged in community- based endeavors and cultural observances, creating new spaces for listening to one another’s experiences.

Looking to the future, Ochsner Health is expanding academic pursuits with Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Several HBCUs in Ochsner regions came together in Spring 2022 to pursue opportunities as the next generation of healthcare professionals. And this year, Xavier and Ochsner announced plans to open a new school of medicine – a critical endeavor, as only four HBCU medical schools currently exist nationwide.

Ochsner is embracing the opportunity to build the future we wish to experience, with health equity at the forefront.

You can make a difference! Please help diversify healthcare by contributing to the future Xavier Ochsner School of Medicine.

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