The Role of Inclusive Learning in Achieving Health Equity
The Role of Inclusive Learning in Achieving Health Equity

The Role of Inclusive Learning in Achieving Health Equity

Employee Learning & Development, Company Culture, Diversity Equity & Inclusion, Employee Well-being   — 2 MIN


By: Guest Contributor Dr. Marcelle Wilson Davis

As we look around us today, it's hard to deny that change is constant and consistent. Sometimes we are prepared for it but sometimes we are not and, when it is the latter, we must find ways to catch up or learn something new, so we are not left behind. In healthcare, our ability to meaningfully communicate and interact with our patients could impact the care they receive. This is where inclusive learning comes in: it positions us to close gaps related to health disparities and ultimately achieve health equity.

The CDC defines health equity as “the state in which everyone has a fair and just opportunity to attain their highest level of health.” Many steps must occur to achieve the “highest level of health,”, but the end goal is to eliminate preventable health disparities by addressing “historical and contemporary injustices” and overcoming “economic, social, and other obstacles to health and health care.”

It is also important to remember that because each person is unique, with different backgrounds, cultures, and life experiences, we all view life through different lenses and have different needs and means to meet those needs. Breaking that down into layman’s terms means that because we don’t all have access to the same resources, it is difficult for some individuals to access the care they need; when that happens, it directly impacts the quality of their health.

When we examine what we must overcome to achieve health equity, a key piece to removing those barriers is understanding those who embody dimensions of diversity that may differ from those we represent. This understanding comes from learning about one another and what makes us different, including culture, race, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, and age. Therefore, creating a compelling business case for investing in learning for healthcare teams is crucial.

By demonstrating the tangible benefits and positive outcomes of inclusive learning practices, organizations can garner the support and resources needed to foster a culture of continuous learning and improvement within healthcare settings. This enhances the skills and knowledge of healthcare professionals and directly contributes to improved patient care and better health outcomes.

Inclusive learning equips healthcare providers to recognize how -isms can cause harm. In fact, the 2020 to 2030 Future of Nursing report called on nurses to be aware of how “racism, sexism, transphobia, ableism, and all forms of structural discrimination impact their work” because these are key to “producing disparate outcomes” in patient care. These -isms are usually the result of unconscious bias – people simply are not aware of what they don’t know. Unconscious bias is something we all have; it is also called implicit bias and refers to the unconscious forms of discrimination and stereotyping based on race, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, ability, age, and so on. When unconscious bias exists, it changes the way we see , interact with, or even care for people who are different from us.

At its most basic level, unconscious bias results in microaggressions which are subtle, often unintentional, form(s) of prejudice. In other words, a microaggression is not an overt act or demonstration of an -ism but instead may show up as an unintentional joke, or offhand comment that makes others uncomfortable. It could be done in a one-on-one setting or a group. In healthcare, unconscious bias could impact the way a provider engages or interacts with a patient or their family.

As indicated earlier, an effective way to ensure unconscious bias, microaggressions, or another type of discriminatory behavior does not impact the safety and quality of care an individual receives is to equip healthcare providers with inclusive learning. Learning can take many different forms –books, articles, movies, learning modules, community events, or webinars, the list is endless.

So, choose the best platform from which you can learn, then start on the path of self-discovery to educate yourself before conversing with others. Then, together, you can embark on a learning journey that leads to a discussion on how and why health disparities exist and the best ways to begin closing those gaps and ultimately achieve health equity.

For more information on how a learning partner like HSI Blue Ocean Brain can help you foster inclusive learning, click here to schedule a consultation with one of our learning experts.