Allying for Health Equity Blog

The acronyms for diversity and inclusion initiatives at healthcare organizations are many, but the objectives share commonalities: to identify and address systemic and structural forms of discrimination to provide culturally responsive, equitable care to patients in the context of inclusion and social justice.

Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Program

The Association of Clinicians for the Underserved (ACU) founded its Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI) initiative as a resource to help healthcare providers implement JEDI principles within their organizations. Sabrina Edgington, MSSW, ACU’s Senior Director of JEDI Initiatives, leads the program, and she explained JEDI as a concept that goes beyond the definitions of diversity, equity, and inclusion—”it’s a holistic way of looking at root causes and contributors to inequalities.”

To start, Edgington notes, it is critical to understand “that diversity is just a number and does not mean that employees belonging to historically excluded groups have any power in their organizations to shape inclusive and culturally responsive programming.”  The concepts of equality and equity are also important to distinguish in health care settings. Simply put, equality means everyone is given the same opportunities and resources. Equity considers the disparities that exist among groups and acknowledges that each person comes from different circumstances. “Disinvested populations may need additional resources and supports to experience the same level of success that more privileged and overly resourced members of their communities experience,” said Edgington.

A good way for health centers to begin implementing JEDI principles is by performing an organizational assessment involving all levels of staff, leadership, and patients to ensure your health center has a baseline to jumpstart change and gauge progress. It’s helpful to reflect on questions like: How diverse is your staff, leadership, and Board of Directors? Does your organization have a JEDI statement in place that can be used as north star to guide all decision making? Does your organization offer trainings on bias and discrimination, and if not, how can you begin this educational process?

Workplace culture is also an important aspect of inclusion. Meaningful inclusion ensures that everyone who walks through your doors are genuinely welcomed as their authentic selves and are respected and supported. Edgington suggest considering the following questions when thinking about how to incorporate effective inclusion principles into the health center environment:

  • How do we create a work environment that’s not dominated by one culture?
  • How can we create more multicultural organizations?
  • How can we move away from tokenism to true involvement in decision-making?

Health centers have almost tripled the number of patients served since 2000. As the nation’s community health centers continue to be called upon to provide care to the most under-resourced populations, operationalizing JEDI principles will become even more critical to countering a long-standing history of health inequities.

JEDI Workshop Opens ACU’s 2022 Conference

One way to dive deeper into JEDI is at our ACU 2022 Pre-Conference Workshop, “Workforce Resilience and Transformation: Getting Started in Justice, Equity, Diversity, & Inclusion,” on July 31 from 1-4 p.m. Edgington will host an expert panel with Dr. Marcqwon Daywalker, MD, Director of Health and Wellbeing from AccessHealth Community Health Centers in Richmond, TX; ; Sam Castro, CMHC, Director of Equity & Inclusion from Valle del Sol in Phoenix, AZ; and Marcia Calloway, MS, Chief DEI Officer at San Ysidro Health in San Diego, CA. This workshop will focus on operationalizing JEDI principles within healthcare organizations, exploring JEDI strategic plans, and sharing best practices, challenges, and barriers.

Additional Resources

You can learn more about incorporating JEDI concepts and principles at your health center in our Center of Excellence Brief for essential practices in JEDI, ACU’s “Building an Inclusive Organization” toolkit, and in our webinar series on building inclusive organizations. Also recommended is Ibram X. Kendi’s book, How to Be an Antiracist. Please contact ACU’s Senior Director of JEDI Initiatives Sabrina Edgington with questions about JEDI or to learn how to get involved.