New health equity manager brings wealth of knowledge and experience to HCA

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

A political refugee from Vietnam, Dr. DoQuyen Huynh, who goes by “Quyen,” came to Seattle at age 11 with her parents and four siblings.

She found herself acting as the family’s translator, and helping her parents navigate a complex and unfamiliar public health care system at a time when resources for interpreters were limited, and social determinants of health were not a focus in health care delivery. This childhood experience defined her life’s work to help immigrant and minority groups access culturally sensitive health care.

Quyen is a family nurse practitioner and spent a decade as a leader at a community health center in Seattle’s International District — one of the most diverse zip codes in the country. She also is a national leader on nurse practitioner post-graduate education, training the next generation of clinicians to better meet the health care needs of underserved and diverse populations. She teaches at Seattle University and directs the College of Nursing’s Family Practice Program, which focuses on social justice and health equity. Her goal is to break down barriers to care and promote evidence-based health care through education, clinical practice, and policies.

The importance of health equity today

The Health Care Authority (HCA) defines health equity as everyone having a fair and just opportunity to be as healthy as possible.

The circumstances in which individuals live, work, and play determine health outcomes — called social determinants of health. These include access to good jobs with fair pay, a safe neighborhood environment, availability of healthy food, access to quality education, health care, community support, and stable housing. Other obstacles also affect health equity — such as poverty and discrimination.

ch as poverty and discrimination.

The social determinants of health affect health outcomes.

In spring 2020, HCA recognized the need for a health equity manager. We wanted to help ensure we are providing equal opportunity to the diverse populations we serve: more than 2.5 million Washington residents through Apple Health (Medicaid), the Public Employees Benefits Board Program, the School Employees Benefits Board Program, and the COFA Islander Health Care Program.

The opportunity for a better future

HCA strives for continuous improvement throughout the agency. Being the first health equity manager for HCA, Quyen will help make tremendous impact in peoples’ lives by making health equity actionable and sustainable with the support of HCA staff, community partners, and stakeholders.

“HCA already has a good foundation to build upon, and I look forward to working with staff across the agency to integrate equity in a strategic and systematic way,” said Quyen.

Through the agency Health Equity Workgroup, HCA has drafted a strategy for incorporating health equity principles into operations, programs, and initiatives. This effort supports Governor Jay Inslee’s mission of a healthier Washington.

“I’m really proud of HCA for seeing the need for this important work,” said Quyen. “Every policy and action HCA is involved in directly impacts health outcomes of individuals, and with an equitable approach, low income and disadvantaged populations have a better chance at living a healthy life.”

To read HCA’s statement on health equity and social justice, visit our website. For more information about the Governor’s Interagency Council on Health Disparities, visit healthequity.wa.gov.