Helping with Healthy Equity

Helping with Healthy Equity

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) continues to be highly preventable. Yet, despite the vast network of clinical settings and prevention and management strategies available to help patients reduce their risk for cardiovascular disease (CVD), not every patient has access—putting them on a potential trajectory of CV-related morbidity and mortality.

What can be done to support CV professionals interested in helping with health equity issues, either in their community or on a larger scale?

Inequity is Still Pervasive

Despite efforts at the individual, local, regional, and national levels, health inequity continues to be pervasive. Social determinants of health (SDOH)—conditions in the environments where people are born, live, learn, work, play, worship, and age[i]—have a major impact on an individual’s health and well-being, as well as the quality of their life. Examples include:

  • Safe housing and neighborhoods
  • Access to healthy, affordable food
  • Clean water
  • Safe transportation
  • Education and employment opportunities
  • Safe areas to be physically active
  • Language and literacy skills
  • Racism, discrimination, and violence

Inequities in Clinical Practice

The impacts of health equity have a significant impact on clinical practice and patients. This includes access to care, quality of care, medication access and adherence, and patient outcomes.

Consider the following examples of a few areas where inequities can impact patients and their health:

  1. In a recent survey, nearly half of US healthcare worker respondents agree that patients can receive disparate care based on race, ethnicity, or language.[ii] This can impact the quality of treatment and the recommended strategy of shared decision-making.
  2. A recommendation to increase the number of steps walked may not be feasible if a patient does not have access to a safe place to walk or be active.
  3. Follow-up appointments may not occur without access to transportation or the technology needed to complete a virtual visit.
  4. ‘Eating a heart-healthy diet’ may not be practical for individuals who live in a ‘food desert’—an area with limited or no access to healthful and affordable food.

NEW! Self-Assessment Tool

One way to address health inequity is to become more knowledgeable about the subject individually and share that knowledge with others.

PCNA has partnered with Econometrica, Inc. to create a survey tool that individual healthcare professionals can use to assess their knowledge about health equity. By completing a confidential survey (approximately 10 minutes), healthcare professionals can identify their areas of familiarity with the topic and access a list of resources to address any knowledge gaps and identify best practices that may be applied in clinical settings. The tool is available at no cost.

A committee of nursing professionals from across the US was involved in the development and testing of the tool. Committee members also included representatives from other professional organizations. Each committee member shared their expertise on the issue of health equity in clinical practice and assisted in the selection of related resources.

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Advocate for Improved Policies and Legislation

In addition to helping individual patients, health equity actions may extend to others in the work setting, the statehouse, or federal legislative bodies or departments.

Offer to participate in your organization’s committee(s) that address health equity. Get involved in PCNA or other organizations that are working on advocacy for providers and patients. Make your voice heard through interactions with representatives at the state or national level, and help share your patients’ stories with decision-makers at all levels.

Learn more about nursing advocacy by listening to PCNA’s related podcast episodes (check out our conversation with Ryan Gough of the Partnership to Advance Cardiovascular Health) and visiting PCNA’s Advocacy resources.

Dare to Make a Difference Today. And Tomorrow.

What you do each and every day matters and individual actions can collectively create a tidal wave of change. So while you’re measuring blood pressure, counseling a patient on prevention, prescribing a cholesterol medicine, helping someone recover from a cardiac event, advocating for a patient as part of a Prior Authorization process, ensuring that a procedure or surgery goes smoothly, or any other task, keep in mind that helping our patients attain their full health potential—regardless of race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, or other social determinants of health—requires a focus on health equity every day.

References

[i] Healthy People 2030, US Department of Health and Human Services. Social Determinants of Health. Accessed May 21, 2024.

[ii] Fernandez H, Ayo-Vaughan M, Zephyrin LC, Block Jr. R. Revealing Disparities: Health Care Workers’ Observations of Discrimination Against Patients. February 15, 2024. The Commonwealth Fund. Accessed May 20, 2024.

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