Atrium Health recognized nationally for commitment to health equity

Published 10:59 am Thursday, July 29, 2021

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The American Hospital Association (AHA) presented Atrium Health with the 2021 Carolyn Boone Lewis Equity of Care Award for outstanding efforts to advance equity of care to all patients.

Among the most prestigious and notable health care recognitions, the Carolyn Boone Lewis Equity of Care Award is an annual recognition of exceptional efforts among hospitals and health care systems to spread lessons learned and integrate diversity, inclusion and equity into all aspects of operations. The award was presented to Atrium Health President and CEO Eugene A. Woods at the annual AHA Leadership Summit. Carolyn Boone Lewis was the first African American and first hospital trustee to chair the AHA Board.

“Thank you to the AHA for recognizing the 70,000 extraordinary individuals in our Atrium Health family who work tirelessly every day to eliminate health disparities and meet the health, housing and food needs of our less fortunate neighbors and friends across the southeast region,” said Woods. “While we are proud of the progress we’ve made, there is so much more work to be done. We are just getting started and won’t stop until we eliminate health disparities permanently.”

The AHA award recognized Atrium Health for its success in applying data, with an equity focus, to its COVID-19 response. This included testing more than 25,000 community members for COVID-19 through a first-of-its-kind roving testing model, which utilized mobile health units to reach underserved communities with limited access to testing.

Leveraging community relationships, Atrium Health partnered with more than 50 host sites in underserved neighborhoods deemed Public Priority Health Areas with high COVID-19 infection rates and the highest health and quality of life disparities. As a result, Atrium Health completely closed the gaps in testing for African American, Black, Hispanic and Latinx community members.

“As places of healing, hospitals have a vital role to play in ensuring each person can reach their highest potential for health, regardless of background, ZIP code or any other factor. The Carolyn Boone Lewis Equity of Care Award acknowledges the leaders that make diversity, inclusion and equity foundational to their operations,” said AHA President and CEO Rick Pollack. “Atrium Health has confronted disparities in health outcomes with renewed urgency during the COVID-19 pandemic. We congratulate Atrium Health and the honorees for using rigorous, data-informed strategies to help bring about change that is much-needed and long overdue.”

Atrium Health has used this same data-driven approach to bring thousands of vaccinations to underserved communities as part of its “Community Immunity For All” collaborative. Launched in January, Community Immunity For All has a goal to acknowledge the history of health injustice in communities of color, listen to and collaborate with partner organizations, and educate and support individuals in making informed decisions to best protect their health and well-being. Atrium Health is coordinating on-site vaccination events in partnership with local organizations reaching communities of color to ensure equity in access to safe, effective and FDA-authorized COVID-19 vaccines.

“Early on in the pandemic, Atrium Health began gathering and reviewing data to determine communities in Charlotte disproportionately affected by COVID-19, in order to provide equitable access to care,” said Kinneil Coltman, senior vice president and Atrium Health’s chief community and social impact officer. “By establishing our own Vaccine Equity Taskforce, we could best identify ways to address disparities and access to testing, and now to life-saving vaccines. To receive this tribute from the American Hospital Association is a true testament to Atrium Health’s longstanding commitment to health equity, even in the wake of the most difficult times.”

The Community Immunity For All collaborative extends across the Atrium Health Enterprise to include Wake Forest Baptist Health, based in Winston-Salem, and Macon, Georgia-based Atrium Health Navicent. With the support of 150 community partners across the Carolinas and Georgia, more than 180,000 community members have been vaccinated in underserved communities.