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Report offers strategies for building health equity in the workplace

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Photo: American Heart Association

Dallas — By committing to “actions that eliminate inequities,” employers can establish and sustain environments that foster “significant improvement in the health of employees,” the American Heart Association says.

In a recently published report, AHA researchers and business leaders from the organization’s CEO Roundtable outline a path for creating equitable health and well-being in the workplace. The authors contend that although employers are taking action toward this end, “progress must be made on a broader scale to truly achieve health equity.”

Results of a survey – conducted in March – included in the report show that, among more than 1,200 employed U.S. adults, 37% believe structural racism exists in their workplace, including 47% of respondents ages 18-40. Additionally, 66% of the respondents who identified as people of color and 38% of those who identified as white stated that work practices and policies negatively impact health and well-being “a great deal or moderately.”

The report asserts that working toward health equity is “the right thing to do for all organizations,” adding that “equity benefits employee health and productivity, reduces health care costs for employees and employers, and is a moral and business imperative. The health of the entire nation will improve if employers commit to actions that eliminate inequities.”

The report offers seven guiding principles for employers to follow:

  1. Practice intentional inclusion at all levels of the organization, including shared decision-making, ensuring participation and listening to perspectives of individuals from historically excluded populations.
  2. Adopt policies, practices and programs that address the historical legacies of structural inequities and how current systems, practices and norms may perpetuate inequity. Explore and acknowledge the organization’s role in these histories and systems.
  3. Eliminate structural racism and bias to promote health equity and improve employee health and well-being.
  4. Commit to practicing allyship, modeled and supported by leadership, to promote health equity.
  5. Adopt a common language guide promoting dignity and culturally sensitive use of language.
  6. Create a plan for assessing the impact of organizational change on health equity.
  7. Be accountable for having a true impact on advancing health equity. Intent isn’t enough.

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