Combatting health disparities in communities across Massachusetts.
Massachusetts has thebest health care system in the country, but not everyone in MA reaps the benefits. People of color, individuals with disabilities, and low-income communities are at greater risk for chronic illness, severe health complications, and even death. Throughout the United States, a person’s zip code is more predictive of their life expectancy than their genetic code.
That's why the Healey-Driscoll Administration is introducing Advancing Health Equity in Massachusetts,a place-based initiative aimed at eliminating racial, economic, and regional disparities in health outcomes.
This initiative, led by the Executive Office of Health and Human Services, is starting with two key focuses: maternal health and social determinants of health. Thematernal health team will look at how best to support moms and infants in the period before, during, and after birth. At the same time, the social determinants team will examine all of the living conditions and societal structures that make a person more vulnerable to heart disease, stroke,and other cardiometabolic diseases.
In addition to all of the statewide work, we plan to pilot innovative strategies in the ten areas of the state with the most extreme health disparities. These priority geographies will serve as a starting point for greater change, allowing us to conduct a thorough, thoughtful, and focused review of our approach and investments. At the end of year one, EOHHS will review lessons learned in those communities and move forward accordingly. The ultimate goal is to save lives in every corner of Massachusetts. And we won't stop until we see demonstrated success: fewer lives lost to preventable causes.
In July 2023, the Department of Public Health (DPH) released a report that revealed significant racial inequities in unexpected complications of labor and delivery. It also showed that the number of these unexpected complications (“severe maternal morbidity”) had doubled over the last decade. Around the same time, DPH shared that there was a record-high number of opioid-related overdose deaths in 2022, with Black residents accounting for the largest increase in deaths.
In September 2023, Governor Healey called for a comprehensive review of maternity services across the state to prevent loss of access and ensure equitable resources statewide. The Governor also called for a regional access review – because addressing regional disparities is a critical part of health equity.
The resulting reports recommended several next steps in the evolution of equitable care in Massachusetts. The Department of Public Health noted the particular challenges that rural areas face, including staffing and transportation, and recommended a focus on improved community engagement, more innovative service delivery, workforce investments and more. The recommendations included in these reports are already informing the work of Advancing Health Equity in Massachusetts.