Massachusetts Program Offers Cash Rewards to Hospitals That Reduce Health Disparities Among Minority Patients
Massachusetts health officials last week announced a statewide initiative that will offer cash rewards to hospitals improving the quality of care and reducing health disparities among racial and ethnic minorities, the AP/Worchester Telegram & Gazette reports. Under the pay-for-performance effort, the state has set aside $20 million to offer cash rewards to hospitals that make minority health improvements in five key areas: high-volume or high-risk procedures, maternity and newborn care, pediatric asthma care, community-acquired pneumonia and surgical infection prevention.
The program establishes a baseline threshold and best practices benchmark for each category. JudyAnn Bigby, secretary of the state's Office of Health and Human Services, said such efforts give the state a "baseline to work from and giv[e] us an opportunity to say to these institutions, 'Why do you have these differing outcomes for heart attacks and diabetes by race or ethnicity, and what are you doing about it?'"
The state also has implemented other strategies to address health disparities, such as requiring hospitals to maintain more detailed records on the race, ethnicity and primary language of patients. Earlier this month, the Commission to End Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities issued a report that called for the creation of a center to address minority health disparities (LeBlanc, AP/Worchester Telegram & Gazette, 8/20).
In related news, Barbara Ferrer, who became executive director of the Boston Public Health Commission this summer, said that addressing racial health disparities among city residents will be her biggest challenge, the Boston Globe reports. Ferrer is particularly concerned with higher premature births in black women. She said racism contributes to many health disparities among minorities, including the high rate of premature births and infant mortality. "The solution isn't more prenatal care. It's addressing the stress caused by racism," she added. "The idea that you don't have an equal chance at life when you're born is deeply troubling," Ferrer said.
Ferrer "doesn't have a top-down, we-know-best approach," Nancy Norman, medical director of the city's health commission, said, adding, "She's effective because she's got an ability to put her finger on the pulse and know what's happening in communities" (Rimas, Boston Globe, 8/20).