LMH Health’s Health Equity, Inclusion & Diversity director Erica Hill announces health equity strategy
As part of LMH Health’s commitment to better serve all populations in our community, the hospital named Erica Hill as the new director of health equity, inclusion and diversity in January.
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Over the past several months, Hill has worked closely with hospital leadership and the LMH Health inclusion, diversity and equity impact advisory group to develop a health equity strategy for the hospital. She announced the plan to the LMH Health Board of Trustees, senior leadership, clinical leadership and providers in June.
The goal? To advance health equity at LMH Health.
According to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, health equity means that everyone has a fair and just opportunity to be as healthy as possible, and that requires removing obstacles to health such as poverty, discrimination, education and housing.
Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department’s most recent Health Equity Report shows disparities in health by income and education in our community. Racial and ethnic minorities are disproportionately impacted by their social determinants of health, such as availability of resources like safe housing and food, and access to job opportunities and healthcare. Residents with low income are also affected.
Hill says this new strategy can improve health outcomes for LMH Health patients, employees and the community at large.
“This strategy aligns with the work already being done to improve health outcomes and create a sense of belonging for LMH Health employees and patients,” said Hill. “Our goal is to directly influence social determinants of health by working with and educating LMH employees, increasing community involvement and investing in upstream solutions to addressing health inequities.”
The goal of Hill’s strategy is to “operationalize” health equity at LMH Health – in other words, to create clear ways for staff members and providers to advance health equity in their day-to-day work.
One example is the health equity assessment tool, which is used when staff members are discussing a project, making a decision or setting a policy. The tool guides conversation about who will benefit from a proposed change, who will be disadvantaged and what factors could mitigate potential adverse outcomes. This tool is also used by the Unified Command Equity Impact Advisors.
“When making a decision, we need to understand who will be impacted or burdened,” Hill said. “This strategy will help shed more light on those affected negatively and will give us the tools needed to eliminate barriers.”
The health equity advancement strategy is also focused on ensuring an inclusive work environment. Hill says that health equity, inclusion and diversity is not a “box to be checked,” but rather, an ongoing and fundamental part of an organization.
“Health equity work is fluid,” Hill said. “Advancing health equity is an adaptive challenge, with no clear answers or perfect solutions. However, I’m confident that our health equity strategy principles are an important step in the pathway to get us closer to where we want to go, and who we want to be as an organization.”
Hill emphasized that her work is done in collaboration with many other team players, including Sheryle D’Amico, senior vice president of strategic integration, Colleen Browne, vice president of human resources and talent, LMH Health ID&E Impact Advisory Council leaders Verdell Taylor, TaNiqua Ward and Julie Black-Opilo, and other committees inside and outside of LMH Health.
At the hospital, Hill co-leads the Health Equity Advancement Team with Dr. Lynley Holman of Lawrence OB-GYN Specialists. Hill also leads the Community Health Equity Advocacy Council, an LMH Health-hosted group that advises on the hospital’s health equity strategy.
In her new role, Hill reports to LMH Health President and CEO Russ Johnson.
“Health equity is central to our purpose: to be a partner for lifelong health,” said Johnson. “We are making investments in advancing health equity and ensuring we are a place where everyone knows they belong – whether they work here or choose LMH Health for their care, we want them to feel that partnership with us. Health equity should be part of the very fabric of our organization and something we intentionally do every day.”
Hill is currently the director of finance and strategic initiatives at LMH Health Foundation and will continue to serve in that role alongside her new position. She said it makes sense to bridge together her work in philanthropy and health equity at the hospital.
“The Foundation has evolved to be more equity-centered, and it makes sense for me to do this work in tandem,” Hill said. “Working at the Foundation gives me a unique perspective: an awareness of the needs in our community and the areas our donors are passionate about supporting.”
Over the past few years, Hill and her colleagues have worked to increase education and programming around health equity, inclusion and diversity at LMH Health and around the community. The LMH Health Leadership Academy, funded in part by LMH Health Foundation, is one program that Hill is particularly proud of.
“The Leadership Academy is a comprehensive mentorship program that creates a learning culture and promotes personal and professional development for our scholars, all while being surrounded by caring adults who want to see them succeed,” said Hill. “The purpose of the Academy is to provide an opportunity for students to learn and explore. Often times, it’s a lack of opportunity – not ability – that is the barrier to success.”
Hill joined LMH Health Foundation in 2013 and has held a variety of roles there. She received a B.S. in Human Biology from the University of Kansas and a master's degree in Healthcare Leadership from Friends University.
A 2018 graduate of Leadership Lawrence through The Chamber, Hill was named to the 2019 “40 under 40" class of young professionals by the Association for Healthcare Philanthropy, an organization dedicated exclusively to professionals who encourage charity in healthcare organizations.
“I'm honored to work in this capacity,” said Hill. “In order to move toward greater health equity, inclusion, and diversity we must work together, and that's the most exciting part about this new position – intentionally collaborating with LMH Health colleagues and community partners to ensure everyone in our community has the opportunity to be as healthy as possible, and feel a sense of belonging when they come to LMH Health."