Health equity

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What is health equity?

To the Health Care Authority (HCA), health equity means that everyone has a fair and just opportunity to be as healthy as possible.

This requires removing obstacles to health such as poverty, discrimination, and their consequences, including powerlessness and lack of access to good jobs with fair pay, quality education and housing, safe environments, and health care. Health equity is a core value of HCA.

Our language is based on Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s definition of health equity.

Why does health equity matter?

We all have a part to play in advancing health equity. When we recognize that health inequities exist, we can work to address them.

What is HCA doing to advance health equity?

Our vision is that HCA employees embody a culture in which we openly recognize health inequities and are empowered to work together, and with the people we serve, to reduce inequities through fair and equitable distribution of programmatic, financial, and informational resources.

Current health equity work

Governor Inslee’s Executive Order 22-04 directs all state agencies to create a PEAR Strategy Action Plan to ensure equity in state government. 

HCA’s PEAR Team began meeting in June 2022. Among other responsibilities, the PEAR Team will partner with people and communities impacted by our programs with the goal of listening, planning, and beginning to bridge gaps and reduce disparities.

This work is being supported by the Washington State Office of Equity.

The Health Care Authority (HCA) partnered with the Washington Center for Nursing (WCN) to create this health equity video for nurse leaders across our state. Nurses and nurse practitioners play an instrumental role in providing quality care for patients. More importantly, they have the power to influence health equity by recognizing their own bias and acknowledging that all patients have different backgrounds, experiences, cultures, and beliefs.

Watch the video to learn what HCA, WCN, and some nurse leaders are doing to advance health equity across Washington State.

Health equity liaisons play a key role in advancing health equity at HCA. They serve as a bridge and help connect our health equity work across the agency. As part of their work, liaisons serve on committees that focus on:

  • Applying a health equity lens to our work and programs, including the rollout of the Health Equity Toolkit to staff.
  • Designing a process for which health equity information is shared across the agency.
  • Creating an inventory and submission process for health equity and diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) projects.
  • Supporting the PEAR Teams’ work for Executive Order 22-04.

Applying an “equity lens” means to evaluate the impacts of our job functions, policy, or program by considering things like race, ethnicity, creed, color, national origin, citizenship or immigration status, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, disabilities, income levels, education, housing status, residential locations, and language abilities.

Here are some examples of how we’re applying a health equity lens to our work:

  • During the 2022 legislative session, three HCA divisions participated in a pilot program to apply a health equity lens to their legislative bill analysis. Next year, all divisions will participate.
  • Staff are applying a Health Equity Toolkit to their work. The toolkit helps staff think through how a program or policy impacts communities, eligibility, access to health care, and much more.

In 2021, HCA adopted an equity policy that requires all staff position descriptions to have this language: HCA employees will apply an equity lens to their work, which may include but is not limited to all analyses of core business and processes.

HCA launched the Health Equity Spotlight in 2021, which recognizes an individual, program, or effort at HCA that is advancing health equity.  We hope to share our spotlights on the HCA Connect blog, HCA Connect Medium, and other platforms in summer 2022. 

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