1. McGraw, Mark

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Eight radiology organizations have partnered to form the Radiology Health Equity Coalition, a collaboration designed to "positively impact health care equity in the radiology arena and beyond," according to the coalition.

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Brought together by the American College of Radiology (ACR), the alliance includes the ACR, the American Board of Radiology, the American College of Radiology, the American Medical Association Section Council on Radiology, the Association of University Radiologists, the National Medical Association Section on Radiology and Radiation Oncology, the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA), the Society of Chairs of Academic Radiology Departments, and the Society of Interventional Radiologists (SIR). Specialty and state-level radiology organizations have already joined the initiative, which has gathered more than 620 pledges since its formation.


The network of "patient-focused radiology societies will collect, assess, and disseminate resources and best practices, advocate for and connect with patients and community members, and collaborate on programs and services to improve access and utilization of preventative and diagnostic imaging," according to a Radiology Health Equity Coalition statement.


To help achieve that end, the coalition has formed two workgroups from its founding Mobilization Team members to conduct claims data research to pinpoint geographic gaps in imaging care that are readily available technologies, such as advanced imaging for breast cancer and working with local radiologists and communities to identify barriers to accessing high-value care, including lack of equipment and training.


The alliance also plans to develop a toolkit and accompanying resources to support radiology practices in their outreach to community health centers to ensure high-value imaging care reaches underserved populations.


While noting that disparities and inequities in health care have been evident for many years, "the COVID-19 pandemic has magnified the disproportionate numbers of people of color and rural residents in the U.S. affected by barriers to care," said Jacqueline Bello, MD, FACR, Vice Chair of the Board of Chancellors with the ACR. "We are coming together to do something about it."


Bello describes the current state of care as "inaccessible, fragmented, and siloed," presenting a "chronic challenge" for patients and health care providers alike, resulting in "low-value and inequitable outcomes that are more likely to affect underserved populations."


For racial and ethnic minorities in the United States, health disparities take on many forms, including higher rates of chronic disease and premature death. Indeed, CDC data from June 2020 found the life expectancy of Whites was 78 years, compared to 72 for African Americans. CDC statistics also show several chronic disease disparities between minority groups and White individuals in the United States.


In addition, Black women are 42 percent more likely to die from breast cancer than White women, while Asian Americans are twice as likely to die from stomach cancer, 8 times more likely to die from hepatitis, and have a tuberculosis rate more than 30 times higher than that of White Americans. And, Latinos in the United States are more likely to die from colorectal disease than are those in many Central and South American nations, while the colorectal cancer death rate for U.S. Latinos has dropped more slowly than it has for Whites.


As Bello pointed out, many professional radiology organizations have worked independently toward serving the public trust-ACR's quality and safety work, RSNA's foundation, and SIR's research on peripheral artery disease, for example.


"But we recognized that only by working together can we really move the needle" in terms of effectively addressing the types of disparities that the coalition was formed to take on, Bello noted.


"It is important to engage community members in designing and implementing change in their local environments," she added, including radiologists working in partnership with patients and other clinicians via the Radiology Health Equity Coalition.


The coalition's approach is geared toward "identifying areas of need and patients who aren't getting equitable imaging care, then assisting radiologists and their colleagues in developing practice models to dismantle inequities and reduce disparities," Bello stated. "This is only possible with a united effort from the entire radiology community as each of our professional organizations brings a unique strength to our coalition. Together, we can drive sustained change in imaging, the health care system, and our patients' lives."


Mark McGraw is a contributing writer.