As healthcare organizations work to address structural and community inequities




A comprehensive, vetted approach helps healthcare orgs coordinate equity strategy


Princeton, NJ—Bold recommendations developed by experts from many sectors provide comprehensive, actionable framework for healthcare organizations to advance equity in care delivery.

Convened by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to identify how healthcare can approach their oft-stated goal to increase equity, Raising the Bar crafted specific principles, roles and actions that healthcare organizations can use to begin, or advance, their health equity work. Advisors led by the National Alliance to impact the Social Determinants of Health (NASDOH) crafted a framework outlining the wide-reaching and essential roles healthcare providers, payers and institutions must play in improving equity and well-being within their own organizations and the communities they serve.

“Healthcare leaders have made a significant shift in how they view the importance of equity, but operationalizing the commitment requires a very bold and comprehensive approach. Ultimately, it requires taking actions to improve the community, patient care, workforce policy and other areas,” said Donald Schwarz, MD, MPH, MBA, senior vice president at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. “Achieving equity in healthcare is multi-pronged and must ultimately be integrated throughout all operations. This new framework outlines how healthcare can approach its work differently to achieve much-needed change.”

Raising the Bar’s core principles apply to everyone who pays for or delivers care and represent the aspirations of individuals, families and communities as they engage with the healthcare system. The five overarching principles for healthcare to raise the bar include:

  • MISSION— Commit to a mission of improving health and wellbeing.
  • EQUITY— Systematically pursue health equity and racial justice.
  • COMMUNITY— Authentically partner with community.
  • POWER— Share resources, voice and power.
  • TRUST— Earn and sustain trusting relationships.

In addition to the principles, Raising the Bar defines four roles healthcare organizations play that must be leveraged for sector leaders to deliver on the promise of equity: provider, employer, partner and advocate.

The report details many associated actions for each role, as well as case examples of healthcare organizations leading transformation by putting the principles into practice. The report also provides resources for those looking to start or accelerate work.

Specific case examples include:

  • Intermountain Healthcare in Utah designated more than $50 million to address housing instability and financial wellness of low-moderate income communities since 2020.
  • The Cleveland Clinic reached out to local faith leaders in their efforts to engage people of color in their health research initiatives. The partnership generated trust in the community and increased the diversity of their research pool.
  • CareSouth Carolina, a federally-qualified health center, collects social determinants of health data, enabling providers to identify and address such health-related issues such as food insecurity, housing needs, transportation barriers and access.

“Long-standing structural and systemic challenges within healthcare are well-known, but the pandemic underscored the imperative to confront root causes of health inequities,” said Karen DeSalvo, MD, Raising the Bar Stewardship Council co-convener, co-founder NASDOH. “Raising the Bar solicited input from all sectors and everyone who shares concerns about the current healthcare system, and they all see the need for bold action, but direction on concrete steps to take has been lacking. Now there is a clear framework to guide the work.”

Raising the Bar’s recommendations were developed through an intentionally and deeply co-creative process grounded in the realities and opportunities identified by healthcare leaders, as well as the perspectives of people with lived experience of inequities. The Raising the Bar principles coalition included experts from the Funders Forum on Accountable Health, Health Care Transformation Task Force, National Association of Community Health Centers, the National Partnership for Women & Families, RESOLVE, Social Intervention Research & Evaluation Network, Trust for America’s Health and Well-Being and Equity (WE) in the World.

In coming months, the National Partnership for Women & Families, working with the Alliance of Community Health Plans, National Birth Equity Collaborative and Health Care Transformation Task Force, will release a detailed use case of how the principles, roles and actions can be applied in practice, using the urgent issue of improving maternal and infant health, especially among Black and Brown populations.

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About the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) is committed to improving health and health equity in the United States. In partnership with others, we are working to develop a Culture of Health rooted in equity, that provides every individual with a fair and just opportunity to thrive, no matter who they are, where they live, or how much they have. For more information, visit Follow the Foundation on Twitter at or on Facebook at  


About the National Alliance to impact the Social Determinants of Health

The National Alliance to impact the Social Determinants of Health (NASDOH) seeks to make a material improvement in the health of individuals and communities and, through multi-sector partnerships within the national system of health, advance holistic, value-based, person-centered health care that can successfully impact the social determinants of health.


About the National Partnership for Women & Families

The National Partnership for Women & Families is a nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy group dedicated to promoting fairness in the workplace, reproductive health and rights, access to quality, affordable health care, and policies that help all people meet the dual demands of work and family.