CVS Health launches Community Equity Alliance to close health disparities

Steven Loeb · January 30, 2023 · Short URL:

Its first partners are Meharry Medical College, Sinai Chicago, and Wayne State University

Health equity is something that just about everyone can agree is important, which is why nearly every healthcare organization has a strategy around this area, even if they struggle sometimes to understand what it is it actually means and how to do it.

CVS Health is no exception, and its most recent effort in this area is a newly announced  initiative called The CVS Health Community Equity Alliance, which will specifically address disparities in heart health and mental health outcomes.

The Alliance already has its first three institutions who have joined: Meharry Medical College, Sinai Chicago and Wayne State University. CVS Health will provide all three with funding for locally tailored initiatives to help make health care more accessible and decrease health disparities.

For example, CVS and Sinai Chicago will focus on engaging the community in the North Lawndale neighborhood in Chicago, with Sinai Chicago recruiting residents in local neighborhoods to become community health workers through its Block Leaders program, who will then be trained to connect local residents with critical health information and resources.

Meanwhile, Meharry Medical College and CVS will work together on recruiting and training community health workers, increasing the diversity of local clinicians. Those community health workers will partner with faith-based or community-based organizations to provide health education and connect the community to health resources. In addition, Meharry Medical College will also conduct a continuing education program for health care professionals focused on the patient-centered medical home and share strategies for how to work with organizations in medically underserved and rural communities.

Finally, Wayne State University Center for Health Equity and Community Knowledge in Urban Populations will create a community coalition, and will also train faculty, staff and community members on best practices in community-engaged research.

“The Alliance is being established to elevate the voices, needs and experiences of local communities, as institutions work to remove barriers to equitable care,” said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, Vice President and Chief Health Equity Officer, CVS Health.

“These collaborations will help us deliver on our health equity strategy and commitment to making health care accessible for everyone.”   

Some of CVS Health's equity initiatives in recent years have included hiring its first Chief Health Equity Officer in 2021; an expansion of its efforts to decrease health disparities among patients with certain conditions including sickle cell, HIV, and cardiovascular disease; a collaboration with Uber Health to provide transportation support at no cost to people who need it most when seeking access to medical care, work or educational programs. 

It has also come in the form of funding, including $9.3 million given to 10 residential and community-based service providers across the state that deliver behavioral health services and support social care needs of West Virginians; a $1.5 million grant to be distributed to members of the National Association of Free and Charitable Clinics for the purpose of increasing access to health care in areas of significant need.

However, health equity is easier said than done. While 98%, of the organizations have a health equity strategy, and 82% said that strategy was being enterprise-driven, the initiation of a health equity strategy is fairly new for most of them: 34% initiated their strategy during COVID, meaning at some point in the last three years, while roughly 60% of organizations developed their health equity strategy within the past five years.

As such, the top barriers to setting and implementing health equity goals and initiatives are sometimes fairly simply: the top answers, with 16% each, were a lack of common understanding of what health equity entails, and a lack of financial commitment. So, while these organizations obviously want to support these initiatives, they seem hesitant to spend money until they can clearly define what they will look like.

Other barriers included a lack of leadership commitment as well as a lack of available data, with 14% each, while 13% said lack of a business case to align health equity to a tangible return on investment, lack of dedicated resources, and lack of technology enablement capabilities. 

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