Michael Thompson on Steps Needed to Bolster Health Equity Initiatives in the Workplace

Michael Thompson, president and CEO of the National Alliance of Healthcare Purchaser Coalitions (National Alliance), addressed the current state of health equity strategies in the workplace and how employers can better address inequities in their benefit designs, programs, and policies in the near future.

Findings from National Alliance of Healthcare Purchaser Coalitions’ (National Alliance) Pulse of the Purchaser Fall 2022 Survey presented at their recent Annual Forum showed that 41% of surveyed employers are reviewing and addressing the role of workplace policies regarding health equity, with another 24% planning to do so.


In this interview, Michael Thompson, president and CEO of the National Alliance, spoke on how strategies against health inequities are still in their infancy and what steps are needed over the next decade to improve health equity in the workplace.


Transcript

How do you foresee the evolution of health equity strategies in the workplace over the next decade and what efforts can help accelerate their implementation?

Health equity has risen into our vernacular at a record-high level, at least as we're having conversations with coalitions, employers, and other stakeholders. But frankly, we're barely on first base on health equity. I think initially, it's really about understanding better, what are the issues that we need to be addressing and how do we get there? How do we actually mitigate disparities and inequities in the system that we're dealing with?

Very few employers have carried that all the way down the track where they've actually started to systematically root out inequities in their designs, programs, or policies. But we do see more employers starting down that path and planning to do so in the next few years.

We believe that there's a logical change process underway, where it starts with understanding what the issues are, then examining the “as is.” What are we doing? How are we supporting or contributing to inequities? And then taking action, but even as we take action amongst ourselves, I think the other role that employers can and will take is influencing the rest of the system to take this seriously and own the issue in their own spheres.

One of the comments that we have shared with coalitions and employers is, if you do nothing else, ask everybody you deal with, your health plans, your other intermediaries, your service providers, what are you doing about health equity? If purchasers set the tone at the top, the rest of the system will follow.

But let's get real and let's have an impact. We know that we are constantly learning about the issues. They're very complex in some instances, but being more conscious and mission driven around equity will make a difference over time. And I think the system that we're building going forward will not be based on averages, but will be oriented towards variation in outcomes.

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