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People of color in the United States experience poorer health and more premature, preventable mortality than their White counterparts. Although health care companies prioritize achieving health equity, their efforts often focus on disparities caused by poverty, education, and disability without explicitly addressing how structural racism significantly raises the risk of poor health for people of color. Corporate diversity and inclusion efforts, while helpful, are not sufficient to counter biases in clinical practice or access to health care. By better serving communities of color, health care companies can deliver better outcomes and strengthen their own economic performance.

A follow-up to The Competitive Advantage of Racial Equity, developed in partnership with PolicyLink, this report focuses on actions taken by companies in the health care sector to create business value by addressing the unique challenges faced by communities of color. The companies featured in this report—ProMedica, Kaiser Permanente, Cigna, and UnitedHealth Group—have adopted several business strategies that improve health outcomes for people of color and create a competitive advantage through reduced costs, avoided readmissions, and greater member satisfaction.

Top Takeaways

  1. For health care organizations to achieve health equity, it is essential to have an explicit focus on racial equity.
  2. Leading health care providers and commercial insurance companies are redesigning the ways in which they provide core services to better meet the needs of people of color and they are making investments to improve community conditions that affect health.
  3. These companies also have strong internal catalysts that enable them to implement strategies—including a diverse employee base that feels included, strong leadership that understands why race matters, and an organizational structure that connects equity to business goals.
It’s never a matter of if health disparities exist, but where and at what magnitude they exist.

U. Michael Currie, SVP and Chief Health Equity Officer, UnitedHealth Group

This report was funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.