Increasing diversity in health care leadership and eliminating care disparities are critical to ensuring high-quality care for all. The renamed Institute for Diversity and Health Equity has created a new model for the American Hospital Association’s continued work on these issues and is engaging broader participation.

The institute grows out of the former Institute for Diversity in Health Management. The new model will better align with the AHA’s strategic priorities and its Path Forward, which focuses on access, value, partners, well-being and coordination. Now all AHA-member hospitals and health systems will have membership in the institute and access to its educational opportunities, tools and resources.

The institute’s priority areas

The institute will continue focusing on three priority areas to accelerate diversity, inclusion and health equity: 

  • Expertise: The institute’s leaders and board members, as well as practitioners from its advisory council and the field, will offer expertise and strategies for individuals and organizations to provide high-quality, equitable care.
  • Education: The institute will strengthen its national repository of tools, resources, case examples, technical assistance and programs that support diversity and equity in health care. For example, the institute’s summer and fall enrichment programs develop future health care leaders. The institute's online resource center offers “A Diversity, Equity and Cultural Competency Assessment Tool for Leaders” to help health care organizations assess their progress to create high-quality, inclusive and equitable care environments.
  • Agent of change: The institute will foster dialogue and collaboration and strengthen relationships with stakeholders and community partners to advance diversity, inclusion and health equity.

The role of trustees

Here are five things your board can do to prioritize diversity and health equity:

In efforts toward higher reliability, include a lens that illustrates inequities in care. Follow and discuss equity of care measures as part of the quality committee's work, reflected in a quality dashboard. Care disparities can be addressed if data on race, ethnicity and primary language are used. Dashboard data can guide outreach, workforce development and community health strategies. 

Identify a novel, multipronged strategy for leadership diversity. As part of its alliance with the National Urban League, the AHA is providing support and education to hospital CEOs and NUL leaders interested in serving on hospital and health system boards, creating a replicable model for other communities.

Educate staff on such topics as unconscious bias. Increasing cultural competency training, including on unconscious bias, will ensure that all patients receive optimal care.

Have an actionable strategy to address social needs. Screening for and addressing patients’ nonmedical needs — the social determinants of health — like food insecurity and housing instability can improve overall health and decrease health utilization and costs.

Use data from community health needs assessments to inform population health strategy and build partnerships. CHNA data will help to identify priority health issues. Meaningful clinical-community linkages are necessary to address health upstream and identify gaps in care. The AHA’s Health Research & Educational Trust and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation released “A Playbook for Fostering Hospital-Community Partnerships to Build a Culture of Health” and a compendium with detailed case studies. A “culture of health” is a society where all individuals have an equal opportunity to live the healthiest life they can, whatever their ethnic, geographic, racial, socio-economic or physical circumstances.

The institute’s vision is to empower health organizations to provide equitable care for all people. Visit to learn more.

Jay Bhatt, D.O., is chief medical officer of the American Hospital Association and president of the Health Research & Educational Trust.