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Q&A with Amy Reid, director at the Institute for Healthcare Improvement

Jan 14, 2019

Amy Reid leads efforts to advance health equity at the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI). Reid, who heads the institute's Pursuing Equity initiative, spoke with Interact for Health about ways the institute is working to reduce health inequities in the United States and abroad.

Interact for Health: Could you explain more about IHI and its goals?

Amy Reid: IHI's mission is to improve health and health care worldwide, and we really can't reach that mission without a focus on equity. We work with health systems, communities, regions, and nations on reducing harm and avoidable deaths, and use improvement science to advance and sustain performance in health. Within that work, we're aiming to advance equity by working with health systems and communities to help them see their roles in advancing equity. We want to ensure there are no communities left behind, and that everyone has the opportunity to attain their full health potential.

Interact for Health: Could you tell me a brief story that illustrates the effect of your work in the local community?

Reid: One that comes to mind is Vidant Health, which is a health system in rural eastern North Carolina that we work with in our Pursuing Equity initiative to narrow equity gaps in clinical care. Vidant Health is the largest employer in their area and they've been working to advance equity and impact their community. One of the first things they did was to look internally at wage disparities because they recognized there's a lot of overlap between their employees and the local community. When they stratified the wage data, they found black women were getting the lowest paid wages. So they knew that by increasing their minimum wage, they would make both an impact in their broader community and an impact on racial equity.

Interact for Health: What accomplishments of IHI are you most proud of?

Reid: IHI has this megaphone to health care around the globe, and it's made a long-term commitment to equity that has made me proud. We're being explicit in focusing on the role of racism in creating health inequities and I'm really proud of our work in that area. Second, I'd say that we're sharing our learning broadly to help people address inequities in their own communities and health systems. IHI has really adopted this idea of no matter what you're working on, there's a role for an equity lens in that work, and I think that's something any organization could take as a lesson.

Interact for Health: What lessons have you learned through your work?

Reid: One is persistence. I've learned that there are people at a lot of different organizations, myself included, who are on this kind of personal journey of advancing equity, who are at many different stages of readiness and willingness and understanding in this work. For me, being able to speak with those people, and being ready to hear feedback myself as I grow in my own journey has been invaluable.

Interact for Health: What about your work excites you most?

The movement building is really exciting to me. There's room for everyone in this work to advance equity no matter your skills, no matter where you are on your personal journey. I think equity work gets lost sometimes and it's easy for it to feel really overwhelming. But it also can be really joyful, to be working on something that matters, something fulfilling where I'm growing and learning every day is really a gift.

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