Pride and Health Equity Highlights of June 2022

June 28, 2022 · Andy Reynolds

This June—Pride Month—we celebrated the dignity due all Americans and advocated for equitable health care for all.

Pride Month Was Packed

We got an early start on the celebrations with the May release of our Inside Health Care podcast featuring Dr. Kellan Baker, Executive Director of the Whitman-Walker Institute, speaking about health equity for the LGBTQ+ community and his own journey to health as a transgender man. As someone who helped write groundbreaking sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) standards for the federal government, Dr. Baker has an insider’s view of gender labels in health care.

Pride Month also prompted us to reflect how we are updating our products and programs to account for sexual orientation and gender identity.

  • Our standards for Health Equity Accreditation include SOGI requirements.
  • We’re reviewing our HEDIS measures to make sure their requirements don’t inadvertently exclude people. For example, the HEDIS measure Cervical Cancer Screening does not consider transgender men who have a cervix. More inclusive eligibility criteria will help ensure that everyone who needs care, gets care.

Internally, the scavenger hunt organized by our LGBTQ+ Employee Resource Group was a Pride highlight. Staff could win points by updating their email and Zoom accounts with their preferred pronouns, attending Pride events and learning about famous figures in LGBTQ history. (Shameless recruiting pitch: Access to Employee Resource Groups is just one benefit of working at NCQA.)

A second Pride-related podcast featured Abner Mason, Founder and CEO of SameSky Health, discussing inequities he has faced as a gay Black man. He also talked about how understanding a patient’s cultural identity can form a powerful basis for high-value—and values-based—health care.

A “Plus” to Punctuate Juneteenth

Last June, NCQA founder and president Peggy O’Kane announced to staff:

We have decided to honor the historical significance of Juneteenth as a company-wide holiday starting [June 2021] and annually going forward. Juneteenth marks the actual ending of slavery, a dark chapter in our history. Standing in solidarity with the Black community, we will also take this time to focus on the critical work ahead in the pursuit of racial justice.

This year, on June 21, we launched the latest iteration of our health equity evaluation service: Health Equity Accreditation Plus.

This program builds on the Health Equity Accreditation program launched last fall. That core program is best for most organizations starting their health equity journey. As mHealth Times explained, the new “Plus” program helps health care organizations get even better at measuring and ensuring equitable care, and stands as an aspiration for all organizations committed to improving health equity.

Health Equity Accreditation Plus was developed through consultation with organizations in a pilot program that included health systems. Learning from them was a new and valuable experience for NCQA.

Health Equity Accreditation Keeps Evolving

The underlying Health Equity Accreditation program is getting a refresh. We are holding public comment until July 22 on proposed updates to our 2023 Health Equity Accreditation standards and guidelines.

Proposed changes include new:

  • Clarity in standards for linguistically appropriate services and reducing disparities.
  • Requirements for building a diverse staff, collecting SOGI information and managing members’ data.
  • Rules for delegating equity-related activities to other organizations.

Public comment is a vital influence on how programs like Health Equity Accreditation change. Let us know what you think.

The Bottom Line

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