Collaboration Between Leading Health Organizations Aims to Advance Access to Health Care in Communities of Color

American Heart Association

Bank of America, in collaboration with the American Heart Association, the American Diabetes Association®, the American Cancer Society and the University of Michigan School of Public Health, announced today, the launch of a signature health equity initiative, an impact-driven program to advance healthy outcomes for under-resourced communities. This $25 million, four-year initiative will initially launch in 11 cities: Albuquerque, N.M.; Atlanta; Charlotte, N.C.; Chicago; Denver; Detroit; Memphis, Tenn.; Philadelphia; San Antonio; St. Louis; and Washington, D.C.

As part of this effort, the American Heart Association, American Cancer Society and the American Diabetes Association will focus on three key areas: education and capacity building for health systems and partners; increasing access to health screenings and preventive care; and advocating for greater health equity with national, local and state leaders.

“Lack of access, education and advocacy for communities of color have only been exacerbated by the pandemic, shining a light on historic, systemic gaps in American health care,” said D. Steve Boland, chief administrative officer at Bank of America. “Some communities of color experience a shorter life expectancy of 20 years or more due in large part to historic policies and legacy systems that impact equitable health care opportunities. Addressing barriers to health equity is a critical step in helping communities move forward and realize true economic mobility.”

The innovative, four-year collaboration is part of Bank of America’s commitment to advance racial equality and economic opportunity and builds on the company’s longstanding work to invest in the communities it serves. Health inequities continue to result from dynamic barriers in under-resourced communities across the nation. In addition to addressing the leading causes of death in communities of color – heart disease, cancer, stroke, and diabetes – the health equity initiative is focused on overcoming those barriers and improving health outcomes more broadly, including in maternal health, mental wellness, and nutrition.

The work will be uniquely tailored in each of the 11 cities to meet each community’s needs based on collected data:

  • Nine of the 11 launch cities have a higher prevalence of high blood pressure compared to the national average of 26.6%.[1] Detroit (24.6 per 1,000) and Philadelphia (20.2 per 1,000) are nearly double the national average of hypertension hospitalization rates of Medicare beneficiaries (12.3 per 1,000). 1
  • In San Antonio (11.3%), Philadelphia (11.8%), Memphis (11%), and Detroit (10.7%), the prevalence of people diagnosed with diabetes is higher than the national average of 8.3%.[2] Across all cities, diabetes prevalence is highest in areas with less racial diversity and/or more income inequality.[3]
  • Cancer death rates across all cancers is highest for Black Americans in all 11 markets.[4] Detroit (73.1%, 66.2%) and Memphis (73%, 62%) are lower than the national average for mammography (78.1%) and colorectal (69.5%) cancer screening.[5]

“While overall death rates from heart disease and stroke generally declined over the past two decades until the pandemic, these gains were not equitably shared, especially among Black communities,” said Eduardo Sanchez, M.D., M.P.H., FAHA, FAAFP, the American Heart Association’s chief medical officer for prevention. “That inequity and the disparities in the prevalence and treatment of hypertension, diabetes, and cancer by race and ethnicity should be a call to action. Everyone deserves an optimal and just opportunity to be healthy, giving special attention to the needs of those at greatest risk of poor health. No one should be disadvantaged from achieving their potential because of social position or any other socially defined circumstance.”

“You can’t talk about health care in the United States without talking about the health inequities that have plagued this country for the last 400 years,” said Charles D. Henderson, American Diabetes Association chief development officer. “Having access to healthcare should be a human right no matter one’s race, income, zip code, age, education or gender. Health inequity is obvious and widespread, it contributes to worse outcomes and higher risk for diabetes and many other diseases. The time to act is now and there are no better health organizations than the American Diabetes Association, American Heart Association and American Cancer Society to move the needle and drive change.”

“Data tells us that the same factors that align with health equity directly connect with economic mobility. Structural racism, quality education opportunities, affordable housing and transportation and secure employment with fair pay and sick leave directly impact access to the preventive resources and quality health care needed to improve outcomes in these communities,” said Tawana Thomas-Johnson, senior vice president and chief diversity officer at the American Cancer Society. “It’s a moral imperative that we work together with communities to address these health needs and improve public policy to ensure no one is disadvantaged based on who they are or where they live.”

To scale this work further, the University of Michigan School of Public Health will measure progress and impact on health outcomes through robust evaluation as part of the initiative.

“Health equity is at the heart of everything we do in public health,” said DuBois Bowman, dean of the University of Michigan School of Public Health. “It is critical that we work in partnership with communities to disseminate health-focused programs. In doing so, we must be able to determine measures of success, evaluate if we are hitting those markers, and adjust our approaches as needed to achieve our ultimate goals of improving health and equity. We must also document what we learn, both successes and challenges, to support wide-spread adoption. We are excited to work alongside Bank of America and the nation’s leading health agencies to help identify ways to make a lasting impact on the health of communities across the country.”

The Health Equity Initiative is one example of Bank of America’s work to advance racial equality and economic opportunity. Since 2021, Bank of America has invested more than $66 million to address needs related to health in the communities it serves. This includes local giving across its 93 markets, an expanded partnership with CVS Health to deliver free flu vaccine vouchers to underserved communities, continuing work with Feeding America nationally and locally to address barriers to healthy eating and supporting mental health initiatives for young people of color.

About the American Heart Association

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