What is health equity?
Everyone deserves a fair chance to lead a healthy life, but obstacles to healthy living create health disparities. Obstacles like poverty and discrimination and the consequences of both – lack of access to good jobs with fair pay, quality education and safe housing – mean those facing obstacles are more likely to have worse health outcomes.
Courtesy Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
When it comes to health equity, one size does not fit all – everyone has different needs.
At Tidelands Health, we are recognizing health care disparities in our communities and working to refine operations to better meet our patients’ needs. We are dedicating energy, time and resources to help people find the “right bicycle.” Seeking to help ensure equitable care is a foundational objective for our organization.
Addressing health equity on multiple fronts
Our efforts to examine and address health equity are represented in varying disciplines and initiatives:
Successful health equity intervention
Tidelands Health women and children’s services and OB/GYN practices have made great strides in improving community understanding about the benefits of breastfeeding. Breastfeeding rates at Tidelands Georgetown Memorial Hospital have increased from 47 to 57 percent. The breastfeeding rate among African American women increased 91 percent in two years!
Tidelands Community Care Network – Perhaps no single effort in our organization has done more to identify health disparities and positively affect care in our community. Since its inception in 2012, Tidelands Community Care Network has helped nearly 4,000 community members in our region gain access to primary care, receive referrals to specialty care, establish appointments for behavioral health care and fill tens of thousands of prescriptions at no or low cost. Thanks to Tidelands Community Care Network, in partnership with Access Health SC, The Duke Endowment and dozens of community partners, more adults in the Tidelands region are receiving timely, preventive, diagnostic and procedural care than ever before.
Dedicated data collection – Data gives us a picture of who is receiving our care and the outcomes. When we study our patient care data, we can identify disparities in our care. Tidelands Health is instituting more rigorous registration requirements so we are collecting more precise information from our patients at the time of registration.
Community Health Resources – This department of Tidelands Health is dedicated to community education about healthier living and regularly hosts community events that make important health screenings available to the public at no or low cost.
Health equity progress
In 2013, Tidelands Health began targeted care coordination for emergency department patients who had one or more chronic conditions, were uninsured and low income. Tidelands Community Care Network, partnering with community providers and agencies, focused on chronic condition management and health care access. Among those in the program since 2013, the rate of ER visits per participant per year has decreased by 47 percent.
Organizational work groups – Tidelands Health has committees at the board, senior leadership and employee partner level focused on health equity. These groups are examining items such as our recruitment process to make sure we are hiring a workforce that reflects our community, internal education programs to improve cultural competency and responsiveness and greater accessibility to language translation services.
Our health equity journey
Tidelands Health is on the path of a long health equity journey. We have taken important first steps, and our community is seeing the benefits. As our journey continues, we are dedicated to a future state when everyone is living a better life through better health.