Michigan physician leaders embark on path to health equity

Beyond its inherent tragedy, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought some uncomfortable and unfortunate truths about our health care system into the foreground.

Namely, that it’s unfair.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has served as a stark reminder that health inequities absolutely persist within our health care system, with people of color bearing a disproportionate burden of cases and deaths throughout this pandemic,” said Theodore Jones, MD, a Dearborn-based obstetrician-gynecologist and chair of the Michigan State Medical Society (MSMS) Task Force to Advance Health Equity.

Thankfully, understanding why these sorts of inequities endure and subsequently working to eliminate them is an undertaking the Michigan State Medical Society is committed to and now prepared to begin in earnest thanks in part to a $200,000 grant from the W.K Kellogg Foundation.

“Working to eliminate the inherent structural and systemic racism baked into our health care system is a priority for MSMS, and this grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation will go a long way towards getting us there,” added Jones. The grant will be used to kickstart MSMS’s Partnering to Advance Health Equity project, a new undertaking designed to identify strategies and opportunities to better position and support physician leadership in its ongoing efforts to reduce — and ultimately eliminate — the racial and ethnic health disparities that persist throughout Michigan communities.

That effort starts with a lot of listening and learning on behalf of Michigan’s physician leaders.

Working to advance health equity in communities across the state will naturally begin with engaging physicians and other community stakeholders around the state to better understand the types of support physicians need 
to lead change in their respective communities via care delivery. To that end, MSMS plans to survey Michigan physicians as well as convene stakeholder meetings that will provide opportunities to share experience, listen to local concerns and needs, and identity partners interested in mitigating health care gaps, disparities and inequities.

Beyond that direct engagement in communities throughout Michigan, there will also be a research component tied to the initiative.  As part of the Partnering to Advance Health Equity project, MSMS will also spend time and resources learning about replicable initiatives from other professional organizations as well as work with the American Medical Association to implement evidence-based health disparity-conscious best practices in Michigan.

“Thanks to this grant from WKKF, MSMS and physician leaders across the state are ultimately going to be in a much better position to make sure organized medicine is responsive to community needs, rebuilds trust, and provides leadership in all communities throughout Michigan, providing every patient with the opportunity achieve optimal health,” said Julie Novak, MSMS CEO. “That’s certainly something worth celebrating and we’re excited to get started.”

For more information, visit MSMS.org

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