With well-documented gaps in health and health care across segments of the United States, the American Medical Association (AMA) today adopted policy during its Annual Meeting to define health equity and outline a strategic framework toward realizing the goal of achieving optimal health for all, referring to all aspects of health, including mental and behavioral health. To begin down that path, the AMA will establish a structural or organizational home for the effort, complete with dedicated resources, staff and budget, and a multi-year programmatic roadmap.
"We believe all Americans should have access to affordable and meaningful health care," said AMA Board Member Willarda V. Edwards, M.D., MBA. "There are myriad reasons for health disparities and health inequity, including juvenile justice, bias, stereotyping, prejudice and clinical uncertainty, to the fact that chronic diseases like diabetes and hypertension disproportionately affect minority populations. We know that overwhelmingly, America's physician workforce entered the field driven by a desire to help people. By stepping back, cutting through the rhetoric and working collaboratively, we can ensure meaningful access to care for all Americans and improve the health of our nation."
The AMA acknowledged that physicians alone cannot control all factors necessary to achieve health equity. For some, the AMA's role will be identifying their importance and to urge those who can have a direct role to act. Most, if not all, determinants of health must be addressed in collaboration with others.
To achieve health equity, the AMA outlined a framework approach for the sustained effort:
- Advocate for health care access, research, and data collection
- Promote equity in care;
- Increase health workforce diversity and cultural awareness/competency;
- Influence determinants of health; and
- Voice and model commitment to health equity
The new entity charged with elevating the importance and sustainability of the AMA's health equity efforts will be responsible for facilitating and coordinating health equity work across focus areas and other organizational units, and it will have the authority to propose additional initiatives.