Working to Improve Health Equity for All Kids
May 11, 2023
Q & A with Lalit Bajaj, MD, MPH, Chief Quality, Equity and Outcomes Officer
Dr. Bajaj has served many roles in his almost 27 years at Children’s Hospital Colorado. In his role as Chief Quality, Equity and Outcomes Officer, he focuses on the implementation and measurement of evidence-based care into practice, with an emphasis on improving the care of patients across the pediatric care continuum and promoting the growth of pediatric value-based care. This past year he added equity into his title to lead the expansion of the Department of Diversity, Health Equity and Inclusion. This group will function synergistically with his other focus areas to improve care for every child.
Q: What do we mean by health equity?
A: The CDC defines health equity as the state in which everyone has a fair and just opportunity to attain their highest level of health. The social determinants of health, or the conditions in which we are born, live, learn, work, play, worship and age, account for 80% of health outcomes. Because many of these factors, like income and housing, are impacted by existing systems of oppression, they result in inequitable outcomes. We see this in our own patient population and have been working to directly address it for most of the past decade.
Q: Why is it important for Children’s Colorado to address racial, ethnic and socioeconomic disparities in child health and healthcare?
A: Racial injustice and inequality widely persist today – including in health – and lead to widely discrepant outcomes for kids nationwide. As part of our commitment to health equity, Children’s Colorado is advancing programs and policies that reduce obstacles to health, such as poverty and discrimination, so that all kids have access to effective prevention measures, world-class care and the resources they need to live healthy, full lives.
Q: What are some programs that are advancing this work?
A: Children’s Colorado’s Black Health Initiative is one such program. It aims to address the disproportionate rate of premature births and infant deaths experienced by Black parents and families.
Here in Colorado, according to data from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE), the mortality rate among Black infants in 2016 was more than double the rate of white infants. The infant mortality rate for Hispanic infants was nearly 50% higher than white infants. And Black Coloradans have higher preterm birth rates —11.6%, as compared to 8.2% among white, non-Hispanic births — and higher rates of low birth-weight babies. Nationwide, Black mothers are also dying at three to four times the rate of non-Hispanic white mothers, according to the independent, nonpartisan policy institute Center for American Progress. Our program is designed to improve Black patient and family experiences and health outcomes. Led by members of our Black communities, we partner with those who share lived experiences to develop culturally responsive and focused programs and services intended to reduce the high incidence of anti-Black racism that contributes to premature births, health complications and deaths.