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California Public Health Care Systems Take a Big Swing At Increasing Health Equity

Last month, equity leaders and teams from California public health care systems gathered again in Oakland, CA, to continue sharing ideas and testing new approaches to improve equitable health care that more people of color across the state can trust.  

This learning collaborative of 12 public health care systems, known as the Racial Equity Community of Practice, was formed in 2022 by the California Health Care Safety Net Institute (SNI) to help accelerate health equity. It is funded by the California Health Care Foundation 

The June 2023 meeting marked the conclusion of the Community of Practice’s first cohort. For the last 18 months, members from the County of Santa Clara Health System to UC San Diego Health have been taking a big swing at improving health equity. Through learning exchanges, peer consultancies, and tailored coaching support, they have been working together to strengthen anti-racism strategies and embed equity in their organizational structures. 

“We model for each other what an effective agent of change looks like,” said Shivon Carreño, health justice and equity implementation coach at UC San Diego Health, at the June meeting. She described how health systems in the Community of Practice learned from each other’s equity work in real time to better the lives of patients, staff, and those in their communities. 

Photo Credit: James Lake

During the June session, which was facilitated and co-designed with the National Equity Project (NEP), San Mateo Medical Center and Alameda Health System shared lessons learned and proffered new approaches. They discussed how they moved from intention to action in addressing inequities by applying a set of tools and mindsets using NEP’s liberatory design process to influence positive change within their organizations.  

Along with input from Riverside University Health System, they also shared these suggestions:  

  • Invest time in building trusting relationships with patients by going beyond patient councils, which aren’t always representative, and creating structured patient feedback loops. One member who has successfully engaged patients in a short amount of time discussed capturing patients’ input by simply talking with them directly, phoning them, and posting QR codes around hospitals and clinics for patients to provide anonymous feedback.
  • Increase buy-in from staff members who have reservations about equity work by having one-on-one conversations in advance of a wider meeting on the topic. Taking the time to engage, discuss, and answer questions can go a long way to increasing understanding.  
  • Approach community engagement thoughtfully by considering relinquishing some power and control to community-based organizations and partners 

What’s next

As public health care systems continue to work on addressing their equity challenges identified during the Community of Practice, SNI looks forward to publicly sharing case studies and lessons learned from cohort one later this year.  

SNI is excited to build upon the momentum of systems’ equity work to date by continuing to support the Community of Practice. SNI is finalizing grant funding support for cohort two and looks forward to reporting on the progress in fall 2023.  

Photo Credit: James Lake

What members are saying 

At the core of the Community of Practice are the relationships formed between members that accelerate learning and encourage each other’s equity work. Here is what some of the first cohort had to say:     

“Being able to ask questions and hear about innovative equity practices and the lessons learned in other health care systems has been valuable for our organization.” Member of the Community of Practice 


“I feel inspired and grateful for this community – the expertise, knowledge, experience, guidance – and felt hopeful and connected to something bigger having been part of the Community of Practice.” Member of the Community of Practice


“One thing that I am taking away from my experience in the Community of Practice is the importance of creating hope together.” Member of the Community of Practice

Learn more

For more information about the Racial Equity Community of Practice, visit SNI’s web page. If you would like further information, please contact Thuy-Ann Le at tle@caph.org. You can also read our recent blogs:  

Reaching for Health Equity (With Peers) at Riverside University Health System  

The Evolution of Alameda Health System’s Equity Journey, and the Support of Peers