The AAMC (Association of American Medical Colleges) has established the AAMC Center for Health Justice to address the serious health inequities that affect communities nationwide and to ensure that all people have the same opportunity to attain their full health potential. The center is one component of the AAMC’s strategic plan to lead the change that will improve the health of people and communities everywhere.
“Everyone has the right to the healthiest life possible. Health equity, however, is still not the reality for many communities across the country,” said Philip M. Alberti, PhD, founding director of the AAMC Center for Health Justice. “Giving every community an equitable chance at being healthy means looking beyond medical care alone. There are persistent political, economic, racial, and social inequities and injustices that affect all the sectors that serve our nation’s communities, and these inequities have a disproportionate impact on the health of marginalized communities.”
According to results from a community health survey of adults in the United States conducted by Morning Consult in September 2021:
- 82% of adults believe that being healthy requires more than medical care, and 76% of adults agree that certain groups in the U.S. are less healthy because of their social circumstances or economic situation.
- More than 80% of adults say the health of their communities would be better by improving the quality of their environment, jobs, education, housing, public health, food availability, the legal and criminal justice systems, and infrastructure.
- 87% of all adults agree that everyone in the U.S. should have the same opportunity to access all resources and services they need to be healthy.
The AAMC Center for Health Justice will align and augment the efforts of the nation’s medical schools, teaching hospitals, research institutions, and other local and national organizations to enhance health equity through community collaboration. For the AAMC and academic medicine, this means working alongside organizations from other sectors, community leaders, and community members, and encouraging local efforts to build partnerships between a community's organizations and its stakeholders.
“The traditional tripartite mission of academic medicine—medical education, clinical care, and research—is not enough to achieve health equity for all,” said David J. Skorton, MD, AAMC president and CEO. “The AAMC and academic medicine cannot achieve health equity alone. The AAMC Center for Health Justice is a space to come out of our siloes and work together with greater intention and with all our communities’ needs in mind.”
The center will build a case for health justice by developing tools, institutional policies, and resources to help organizations work with their communities to create and sustain multisector partnerships and focus on the needs expressed by diverse communities across the country. It will produce original research and analyses to establish support for changes in policy and practice that will have a systemic impact on collaborations and efforts to address the root causes of health injustice. Initial efforts will focus on:
- Continuing the AAMC’s ongoing efforts to improve maternal health equity and reverse the rising trend of maternal mortality in Black, American Indian, and Alaska Native communities.
- Developing tools, resources, and evidence to support the collection of data that will help eradicate inequity, not just identify it.
- Convening a group of experts from around the country and across sectors who represent the diverse social, political, and economic determinants of health to identify, guide, and implement the center’s priorities, including All in for Health Equity, a multi-sector collaborative health justice initiative that the center will launch in 2022.
“It’s our hope that we can build on community wisdom and work with partners from every sector and in every community to find solutions that will address systemic inequities,” said Alberti. “History has shown that those closest to injustice are those closest to the solutions. Seeking answers means showing we are worthy of our community’s trust and learning from people who know more about where they live and how they live.”
An additional focus of the AAMC Center for Health Justice is building on the AAMC Principles of Trustworthiness, which were released earlier this year. This set of 10 principles integrates local perspectives with proven community engagement principles to guide health care, public health, and other organizations as they work to demonstrate they are worthy of their community’s trust—the necessary foundation for effective collaborations and partnerships.
“How we partner with communities is just as important as the product of that partnership,” said Alberti. “We need to engage authentically and humbly, and create an aligned, multi-sector agenda for better health in all communities across the country. It’s about putting the onus where it belongs: on organizations with the power to demonstrate that they will use that power justly and act in ways that demonstrate they are worthy of trust.”
“Embracing community collaborations as one of academic medicine’s mission areas provides the opportunity to reimagine what optimal health can be for every community—together,” concluded Skorton. “The AAMC believes doing so is the only way to comprehensively bring equity and justice to the nation’s health system and make meaningful progress toward achieving health justice for all.”
For more information on the AAMC Center for Health Justice, visit aamchealthjustice.org.