New award recognizes hospitals that are working to reduce health care disparities

The Joint Commission and Kaiser Permanente are offering a new award to recognize institutions that successfully launch projects to address health care disparities and inspire other health systems to do the same. The inaugural 2021 Bernard J. Tyson National Award for Excellence in Pursuit of Healthcare Equity is free to apply for; the initial application period ends August 6, 2021. Submissions will be accepted from any health care institution and its partners that directly deliver care and lead initiatives that achieve measurable, sustained reductions in one or more health care disparities for vulnerable patient populations, including patients at risk because of their race/ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, and more.

Tireless pursuit of equity

Dr. Tyson

The award honors Bernard J. Tyson, the late chairman and chief executive officer of Kaiser Permanente, who worked tirelessly to address the disparities that plague the U.S. health care system.

“Bernard Tyson was an incredible human being who left us unexpectedly,” said Ana Pujols McKee, MD, executive vice-president, chief medical officer, and chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer, The Joint Commission, in a Take 5 podcast that announced the award earlier this year. “His career at Kaiser Permanente spanned more than three decades. He was a leader and an advocate for health care equity and challenged other leaders to do the same. It is for that reason that we have partnered with Kaiser Permanente to bring forward this award.”*

Bringing disparities into focus

During the podcast, Dr. McKee touched on the disparities that have been brought to light during the coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, including the difference in death rates and hospitalizations for the Latinx and African-American populations.

“Adjusted per population, the death rate among Latinos and African Americans is 5.3 per 10,000 individuals,” she said. “For whites, it is 2.3. So, as you can see, the fatalities among people of color and Latinos have been devastating.”

Dr. McKee also stressed the importance of the efforts being led across the country to reduce disparities.

“Disparities in health care are a patient safety concern,” she said. “Organizations should be using their performance improvement engine as they do to address any safety concern to really make improvements in disparities of the communities they serve.”*

She anticipated that by offering the award, The Joint Commission and Kaiser Permanente would uncover some of the best practices in reducing health care disparities.

“We’re going to use this opportunity to teach others how to make improvements by featuring the successes of the entries and of the organizations that have demonstrated excellence,” she said.

A diverse panel of national health care equity experts will review the submissions to select this year’s award winner. This 2021 panel is chaired by Mark D. Smith, MD, MBA, clinical professor of medicine, University of California San Francisco.

It is anticipated that the winner will be selected and notified sometime in the fourth quarter of 2021.

For more information about the award, visit For questions about the award, e-mail


The thoughts and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of Dr. Jacobs and do not necessarily reflect those of The Joint Commission or the American College of Surgeons.

*The Joint Commission. Take 5: Announcing the Bernard J. Tyson National Award for Excellence in Pursuit of Healthcare Equity. June 28, 2021. Available at: July 8, 2021.







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