Last summer, Russell Cox, president and CEO, Norton Healthcare, outlined five imperatives to address health and racial inequalities. They included:
- Establishing the Institute for Health Equity, a part of Norton Healthcare
- Ensuring access to primary care for everyone
- Committing to mirror our community within the Norton Healthcare leadership team
- Providing education and advocacy on health policy issues
- Investing an additional $20 million over five years in underserved areas
Much has been accomplished since the announcement. Norton Healthcare employees volunteered to serve on work groups established for each imperative, and changes are underway.
“Healthcare is not just a privilege, but a right,” Cox said. “We are committed to do what is necessary so that everyone has access to the healthcare they need. Therefore, our first imperative was to establish the Institute for Health Equity.”
In August 2020, Kelly McCants, MD, was named executive director of the Institute for Health Equity. “Dr. McCants, a cardiologist who also serves as Norton Healthcare’s medical director of advanced heart failure, has quickly established himself as a community leader in the area of health equity and has been instrumental in developing a model for the institute’s long-term success,” Cox said.
Key to ensuring health equity is increasing access to care in Louisville’s underserved areas. The organization expanded its primary care practice in the YMCA building at 18th Street and Broadway and added a COVID-19 testing center at this location. With a $1.25 million grant from the Norton Healthcare Foundation, Norton Healthcare recently purchased a second mobile prevention center to make it easier for community members to receive services such as mammograms, well-woman exams and colon cancer screenings. In 2021, the mobile unit will have a dedicated schedule in specific areas of the community. In addition, permanent sites will open in West and South Louisville to further expand access to care.
Changes are happening within Norton Healthcare’s workforce as well.
“We redefined what being a leader means. We added more seats to our leadership table and now have a more diverse group,” Cox said. “Leaders are defined by how they make a difference within our community and our organization, not necessarily by job title.
“In addition, we will have a team of recruiters who will focus on attracting and hiring diverse candidates,” Cox said.
The team responsible for this work also implemented training focused on equity, inclusion and belonging, which is now a part of our annual essential staff training that all Norton Healthcare employees complete.
Norton Healthcare recently provided a $1.2 million grant to Simmons College of Kentucky. The grant will help the historically black college in West Louisville with educational and program initiatives. It also will support facility improvements to enhance student and faculty experiences.
“Partnerships are important to making these initiatives successful,” Cox said.
Norton Healthcare also has partnered with the Louisville Urban League (LUL), St. Stephen Church, St. Rita Catholic Church, La Casita Center and others.
“By partnering with trusted local organizations, we have been able to help a larger portion of our community receive essential COVID-19 testing and flu vaccines, and these partnerships will help us vaccinate a larger portion of the community against COVID-19 as more vaccines become available.”
A key component of healthcare is education. Norton Healthcare’s fourth imperative involves providing employees with information to make informed choices when it comes to health policy.
“The education and advocacy work group quickly launched a website with information on how and where to complete the census, information on state and national candidates running for office, how to register to vote, how to request an absentee ballot and where to vote,” Cox said. “We encouraged our employees to share this information with their families, friends and organizations they belong to. It is a gift to be able to participate in the democratic process, and it was important to help our Norton Healthcare family make their voices heard.
“The response from people who want to be a part of our plan to address health and racial inequality is incredible — from our employees, our providers, our community and even our vendors. While much has been accomplished, there is more to do. We look forward to continuing to invest in facilities and programming in underserved areas — $20 million in addition to our previous investments, including the Norton Healthcare Sports & Learning Center with the LUL.
“This is important work, focused on improvement, growth, learning, reflection and an eagerness to effect needed change as quickly as possible,” Cox said.