Why are interventions to reduce disparities important?
Wisconsin health systems have led the way nationally in improving health care outcomes and care through public reporting. However, there are widespread disparities in health outcomes and care for many vulnerable populations within Wisconsin. The Centers for Disease Control defines health disparities as “preventable differences in the burden of disease, injury, violence, or opportunities to achieve optimal health that are experienced by socially-disadvantaged populations.” There is an urgent need to reduce disparities that may have been magnified due to fluctuations in unemployment, health insurance, lapses in education, long-term COVID-19 disability, and increased incidence, severity, and complexity of behavioral health needs of communities. Through Healthy Metric, Wisconsin health systems are committed to intervention and action to reduce disparities.
What measures were identified for intervention?
On December 3, 2021, the Wisconsin Collaborative for Healthcare Quality (WCHQ) hosted a virtual Executive Summit on Health Disparities. Invitations to participate were sent to every WCHQ member health system and medical clinic CEO with a request to designate one person to represent their health system or clinic at the Summit. Representatives from 22 health systems participated in the summit. The goal of the Summit was for these health systems to select measures that showed significant disparities in the 2019 and 2020 Wisconsin Health Disparities Reports and that all systems would focus on for the next 18-24 months to reduce identified gaps through a newly formed Disparities Improvement Team, funded by the Wisconsin Partnership Program and the Advancing a Healthier Wisconsin Endowment.
At the Summit, health system leaders selected three measures as high priority for disparities reduction:
- Diabetes A1c control – over 174,000 Wisconsinites
- Hypertension control – over 473,000 Wisconsinites
- Colorectal cancer screening – over 887,000 Wisconsinites
What is the Disparities Improvement Team?
This newly-formed team brings together participating health systems and stakeholders to decrease disparities throughout Wisconsin. The Disparities Improvement Team will leverage evidence-based interventions as well as collective knowledge and expertise from participating health systems to develop and share best practices and measurably decrease disparities. Because disparities are not homogenous across Wisconsin, tailored approaches based on geography and populations-served will be required.
This generational, foundational work will continue outside the lifecycle of any grant funding. Additionally, while it is difficult to distinguish the important impact of structural and systemic health disparities, systemic racism, and implicit bias, the Disparities Improvement Team recognizes that it is imperative to allow data to tell the story of what and why disparities exist.