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Health Equity

Righting the Health Equity Wrongs That COVID-19 Exposed

COVID-19 has not only exposed existing health inequities; it has exacerbated them. Black and Latinx Californians make up a disproportionate number of both the total number of COVID-19 cases and, sadly, COVID-19 deaths.

The pandemic clearly illuminated inequitable health outcomes for people of color and showed that hospitals and health systems must prioritize health equity.

That’s exactly why Dr. Alisahah Cole came to Dignity Health. As the first vice president of population health innovation and policy, Dr. Cole is charged with “operationalizing” equity. She is leading a systemwide effort to rethink clinical practices and meet vulnerable communities where they are.

“Dignity Health recognizes different communities have different barriers to healthcare,” said Dr. Cole. “Our role as care providers is to create more equitable policies and engage in more equitable practices. We need to bring care to these communities and stop expecting them to come to us.”

Partnering with trusted community leaders and organizations is key to Dignity Health’s strategy for protecting underserved communities throughout the pandemic. Recent vaccination clinics, held in both urban and rural parts of the state, demonstrate how Dignity Health is putting this kind of thinking into practice.

In LA, Dignity Health recently collaborated with the city government, the LA Care Health Plan (Medi-Cal), the Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science, and the NAACP to host a massive vaccination clinic at the Dignity Health Sports Park. More than 20,000 people from high-risk communities were vaccinated. Knowing that transportation is a key barrier to access for communities of color, the initiative also included transportation to the park.

In Yolo County, where the predominantly Latinx farmers have continued working all throughout the pandemic, Dignity Health launched a similar field vaccination effort in Woodland to protect this vulnerable group of essential workers.

“One of the reasons I joined Dignity Health is the mission to care for the vulnerable,” said Dr. Cole. “Dignity Health lives out that mission every day in California by seeking out every type of population demographic and providing care with compassion and kindness.”