After working to promote diversity and representation in the health services and policy (HSR) workforce for several years, AcademyHealth is now intensifying our actions against structural racism in the field by forging meaningful partnerships, developing new resources, and supporting efforts that advance health equity for all.  This post will provide an update on the actions we’ve taken and describe the plans we have in development.

Forging Meaningful Partnerships

AcademyHealth is committed to increasing support for health equity research through meaningful partnerships and collaborations. We recently engaged an external Advisory Group of diverse DEI experts to provide recommendations to shape an evidence-based, action-oriented, and sustainable strategy to address these important issues. Members of the Advisory Group presented preliminary recommendations at the June 2021 Annual Research Meeting (ARM), followed by an ARM networking session with attendees to help orient and provide context for our efforts in the racial equity space.

On August 11th, 2021, the full set of Advisory Group recommendations was released, along with an online survey requesting feedback on these recommendations, which address how we will do equity work with our members and partners and catalyze changes in the field.  The survey asked for community members to categorize the perceived importance of responding to each recommendation as ‘urgent’ (within the next six months), ‘soon’, or ‘later.’  Survey respondents identified four recommendations as high priorities for the next six months:

  1. Develop and disseminate a glossary of terms for DEI
  2. Serve as a DEI model by centering people of color
  3. Track and report workforce diversity through standardized categories
  4. Create a collaborative guidance document and trainings for anti-racism research methods

Work is underway to address each of these recommendations, as we outline in the following section.

Developing New Resources

Guided by the practical recommendations of the Advisory Group, we continue to build out a portfolio of resources to advance the field’s ability to implement anti-racist practices. Recent resources include a workshop on eliminating bias in HSR methods, a DEI glossary, and standardized categories to track workforce diversity.

On July 20th, 2021, AcademyHealth hosted a six-hour anti-racism methods workshop called Understanding and Eliminating Bias in HSR Methods, with support from the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute and The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation as well as guidance from the AcademyHealth Methods and Data Council and the Disparities Interest Group. More than 600 individuals registered for this dynamic event that featured invited experts on topics such as intersectionality, equity in data systems, the power of community-based participatory research, and other topics that encouraged researchers to apply established and innovative methods and techniques to reduce structural racism and bias in their work. The event was recorded and is available for viewing here.  

Recommendations from the Advisory Group on the need for shared language were echoed in Dr. Reginald Tucker-Seeley’s workshop presentation on Measuring and Reporting Health Disparities. In collaboration with Dr. Tucker-Seeley, Dr. Ninez Ponce, Dr. Twyla Baker, and other members of the external Advisory Group, AcademyHealth has released its first version of a DEI glossary. We hope that it will be useful in defining essential DEI terminology and core concepts, particularly as they relate to the HSR field. This glossary will be updated every six months as terms and their definitions evolve.

Consistent with the high-priority activities mentioned above, AcademyHealth began tracking workforce diversity and representation in our conferences in June 2020 by requesting that abstract submitters and registrants self-identify according to racial/ethnic identity, gender identity, and sexual orientation. This tracking will serve as a baseline resource to inform future efforts. For example, we compared the distributions of self-identification data for submitted abstracts and acceptances for ARM 2022 and found that they were substantially the same, suggesting a lack of systemic bias among reviewers. They also revealed the continued underrepresentation of minoritized investigators in our field. The July anti-racism workshop sessions will provide the basis for future concurrent sessions at ARM 2022, with guidance by the members of the Methods and Data Council.

Supporting Efforts that Advance Health Equity for All

AcademyHealth has always worked with and alongside our members to accomplish our mission. We are fortunate to have such a passionate group of volunteer leaders in our Interest Groups, many of whom have begun or re-committed to action on DEI priorities.

Two AcademyHealth interest groups, the Health Economics Interest Group, and the Interdisciplinary Research Group on Nursing Issues (IRGNI), are implementing mentoring initiatives within their respective interest groups in coordination with the AcademyHealth Center on Diversity, Inclusion, and Minority Engagement (DIME).

Over the last two years, IRGNI has been developing a tiered leadership program for nurses at the undergraduate, graduate, and alumni levels to support building community and professional development efforts. The Emerging Diversity Leadership (EDL) program is designed to uplift nurses from underrepresented groups and enable them to advance health equity. Notably, IRGNI recently published a blog on the AcademyHealth website outlining their  commitment to racial equity in HSR. IRGNI members are also working with AcademyHealth to add nursing representation to the Diversity Scholars Program by developing a sponsorship award for a nurse of underrepresented background to attend the Health Datapalooza and National Health Policy Conference, and the Conference on the Science of Dissemination and Implementation in Health.

Relatedly, the Health Economics IG is collaborating with the American Society of Health Economists (ASHEcon) on a Health Economics Diversity Mentoring Initiative to match a pilot class of mentees with mentors. AcademyHealth’s Education Council along with the Methods and Data Council will be engaged to support and guide this new endeavor. This joint program aims to match postdoctoral and early career  health economists from historically excluded backgrounds or smaller academic institutions with established senior mentors in the field. Both organizations are eager to advance professional opportunities for diverse researchers, and we look forward to hearing updates on their progress outcomes at the DIME breakout session at ARM 2022.

At AcademyHealth, we recognize that we are uniquely situated and have a professional responsibility to influence the HSR field in the diversity, equity, and inclusion space. AcademyHealth is thankful for the diverse knowledge, guidance, and expertise of our Advisory Group, partners, members, and other thought leaders in the field regarding how we can meet the moment and do our part to promote health equity and equitable health care for all.

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Margo Edmunds, Ph.D., FAMIA

Vice President, Evidence Generation and Translation - AcademyHealth

As Vice President for Evidence Generation and Translation, Dr. Margo Edmunds leads AcademyHealth's portfolios ... Read Bio

Gabriella Garcia

Gabriella Garcia

Former Research Assistant

Gabriella Garcia was a Research Assistant at AcademyHealth, where she supported the development and implementa... Read Bio

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