The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) has long recognized that the quality of health care in America is lower than it should be for many patients, especially those from certain racial and ethnic backgrounds. Numerous research studies have shown that African Americans and Hispanics are likely to receive a lower standard of care than their white counterparts—even when health coverage, income levels, education and other social and economic factors are equal. The Foundation believes that specific efforts aimed at reducing and eventually eliminating disparities in care will ultimately improve the quality of care for all Americans.
Although RWJF has invested in many efforts to improve the health of different minority groups, we increased our investments and programming on racial and ethnic gaps in care immediately after the release of the 2002 Institute of Medicine report, Unequal Treatment: Confronting Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Health Care. The report provided unquestionable evidence that African Americans and Hispanics were more likely to receive lower-quality care than white patients, and galvanized national organizations and policy-makers to address disparities more explicitly and urgently.
RWJF introduced one of its biggest disparities programs, Expecting Success: Excellence in Cardiovascular Care, in the fall of 2005, to improve the quality of cardiac care for racial and ethnic minority populations in the United States. Ten hospitals across the country received funding for a 30-month initiative focused on ensuring equity in their cardiovascular care. Expecting Success hospitals uniformly measured the quality of care provided to patients based on race, ethnicity and preferred language, which most hospitals in the country have either not done, or not done in consistent ways. Doing so allowed the hospital teams to identify existing disparities and implement changes that better ensured all of their patients consistently received the highest-quality care possible.
Also in the fall of 2005, the Foundation launched Finding Answers: Disparities Research for Change, a key investment to identify interventions that reduce disparities in quality of care. Through Finding Answers, the Foundation is:
- Funding grants to discover and evaluate practical and replicable solutions designed to reduce and eliminate racial and ethnic health care disparities.
- Conducting systematic reviews of existing published and unpublished literature regarding racial and ethnic health care disparities interventions.
- Disseminating results from the research efforts and the systematic reviews to encourage health care systems to address racial and ethnic gaps in care.
Through ongoing research efforts, and major initiatives such as Aligning Forces for Quality, the Foundation is continuously working to ensure that all Americans receive high quality health care.