In May, the American Medical Association (AMA) unveiled an ambitious strategic plan designed to dismantle structural racism in health care. The nation’s largest doctor’s organization said that equity work requires recognition of past harms. The strategic plan was a critical examination of the institutional roles upholding these structures.

The healthcare industry has seen numerous forms of oppression for Black, Latinx, Indigenous, Asian and other people of color, as well as people who identify as LGBTQ+ and people with disabilities. The AMA plan is designed to achieve optimal health for all.

A Health Institution Confronts Institutional Racism

First, the AMA is starting by putting its own house in order. The Chicago-based staff is looking inward to expand capacity for understanding and implementing anti-racist equity strategies via its own practices, programming, policies and culture. A chief component of the plan is to create alliances that elevate the experience and ideas of historically excluded or marginalized healthcare leaders.

“When you have the nation’s largest physician’s organization attempting to take strides to correct historic wrongs, that makes a difference in policymaking, and also hopefully will make a difference in terms of improving the pipeline of African-American physicians into the field,” said Dr. Eric E. Whitaker, CEO and founder of Zing Health.

Second, the AMA’s plan will focus on social determinants of health, addressing the root causes of health inequities by giving physicians the knowledge and tools to dismantle structural and social drivers of living conditions and behaviors that lead to bad outcomes.

This racial equity plan basically admits that not everyone has been equal in the eyes of healthcare professionals, and it’s time to recognize that everyone deserves the same care, regardless of their race, background or situation. The same is true with practitioners, who must clear the institutional hurdles of a healthcare career. The Chicago STEM education initiative CPASS is one piece of the puzzle in supporting minorities in medicine.

Equity Through Community Health and Innovation

Next, beyond its internal moves and social outreach, the AMA will examine closely its past efforts, looking at how policies and processes excluded, discriminated and harmed communities. The stories of historically overlooked physicians and patients have lessons for us all.

“Dr. Jim Madara, the AMA’s current CEO, could have easily swept under the rug some of the organization’s historic, systemic bias against African American doctors, but he took an in-depth look at the many ways that the organization has hindered progress for these physicians,” Dr. Whitaker said. “Without committed leadership, you don’t get results.”

The AMA will strive to ensure equitable approaches and opportunities in innovation, including financial backing.  The organization will embed and advance racial justice and health equity within existing efforts to advance digital health for all. The AMA’s Health2047 subsidiary was an early Zing Health supporter and investor.

Finally, the recent meeting of the AMA House of Delegates demonstrated its strategic plan did not enjoy unanimous support. Similar to other societal efforts to acknowledge and address past racial stains, the AMA’s plan faced resistance from a small pocket of physicians. In the end, the House of Delegates stood firm and passed a resolution supporting guidelines to address system racism in medicine.

Zing Health Wants to Earn the Trust of the Communities it Serves

Zing Health is dedicated to ensuring that minority communities receive exceptional care. As a minority-founded enterprise, we can be a positive force for healthcare equity and improve on the social determinants of health that many members of these communities deal with daily.

Individuals also want to improve their health. But sometimes they have less power to make improvements than it appears. Most seniors want to take care of themselves in a safe fashion, but options aren’t always affordable or easily available.

Minority communities haven’t always been treated equally in the past, and Zing Health is doing its part to change that. Medicare Advantage plans like Zing Health have the ability to reach beyond the doctor’s office to provide wellness benefits to advance equity, from over-the counter drugs and fitness programs to reminders­­­ and social supports.

“My desire for Zing Health is to have it be a company that’s trusted in all communities,” Dr. Whitaker said. “That’s earned slowly by being available at the community level and the grassroots level, where people can see us and our impact. Once you have trust, you can work collaboratively with our members to bring the various aspects of health that will improve outcomes to those populations.”

The AMA’s plan should be championed by the entire healthcare industry, and teaming with companies like Zing Health will go a long way in making the plan’s goals a reality.