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DeLinda Washington, Chief People Officer for HealthPartners

To reduce health disparities, HealthPartners has mobilized an internal grassroots movement to help close gaps in outcomes and educate colleagues on ways to reduce bias, promote cultural humility and anti-racism. Some 350 employees have stepped up to become Health Equity Champions, serving as a resource for their teams or departments to advance equitable care throughout the enterprise.

“Being welcome, included and valued is a basic human need and essential to health and well-being,” said HealthPartners Chief People Officer DeLinda Washington. “Our Health Equity Champions are a great resource as we work to educate our colleagues on cultural humility, anti-racism and reducing bias.”

In addition to being ambassadors, the Health Equity Champions also help research, write and share the HealthPartners Culture Roots newsletter. Recent issues have focused on addressing disparities in depression screening and treatment, microaggressions and advancing LGBTQ health.

In an issue on maternal and infant health disparities, the newsletter shared how HealthPartners is addressing bias to provide the best care and service to patients and members. HealthPartners team members collect data on births and prenatal and postpartum care and partner with community organizations to ensure patient needs are met.

The United States has some of the highest maternal and infant mortality rates among developed countries, especially among people of color. Black infants, for instance, are nearly four times as likely to die from complications related to low birthweight compared with white infants.

In an effort to eliminate these disparities, HealthPartners has implemented structured, consistent practices for how clinician teams address the complications that can occur during pregnancy and childbirth. This includes things like managing hypertension during pregnancy, addressing abnormal fetal heart beats that happen during labor and preventing and managing hemorrhaging that can happen after pregnancy. These structured approaches are called “safety bundles,” and include steps to:

  • Be ready
  • Recognize and prevent
  • Respond
  • Report and learn

Health inequities, especially in the area of maternal and infant health, are profound. Research has shown that college-educated Black mothers who gave birth in local hospitals were more likely to suffer severe complications of pregnancy or childbirth than white women who didn’t finish high school. Disparities like this are what drive leaders like Washington to galvanize the workforce to bring about equity.

“When we understand and embrace our differences, we work better together and can best serve our patients and members.”