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Milbank Q. 2008 Jun;86(2):241-72. doi: 10.1111/j.1468-0009.2008.00521.x.

A plan for action: key perspectives from the racial/ethnic disparities strategy forum.

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  • 1The Disparities Solutions Center, Institute for Health Policy, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.



Racial and ethnic disparities in health care in the United States have been well documented, with research largely focusing on describing the problem rather than identifying the best practices or proven strategies to address it.


In 2006, the Disparities Solutions Center convened a one-and-a-half-day Strategy Forum composed of twenty experts from the fields of racial/ethnic disparities in health care, quality improvement, implementation research, and organizational excellence, with the goal of deciding on innovative action items and adoption strategies to address disparities. The forum used the Results Based Facilitation model, and several key recommendations emerged.


The forum's participants concluded that to identify and effectively address racial/ethnic disparities in health care, health care organizations should: (1) collect race and ethnicity data on patients or enrollees in a routine and standardized fashion; (2) implement tools to measure and monitor for disparities in care; (3) develop quality improvement strategies to address disparities; (4) secure the support of leadership; (5) use incentives to address disparities; and (6) create a message and communication strategy for these efforts. This article also discusses these recommendations in the context of both current efforts to address racial and ethnic disparities in health care and barriers to progress.


The Strategy Forum's participants concluded that health care organizations needed a multifaceted plan of action to address racial and ethnic disparities in health care. Although the ideas offered are not necessarily new, the discussion of their practical development and implementation should make them more useful.

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