NW Health Foundation Sets Sights on Disparities

The collaborative that built momentum for health reform in 2009 will focus on outcomes for those most in need
March 10, 2010 -- After setting the tone for much of the statewide health reform actions of recent years the Northwest Health Foundation is shifting gears and turning its eye toward health disparities.
Its 22-member Oregon Health Reform Collaborative plans to focus this year on healthcare outcomes of poor and minority populations.
“People can realize that the health outcomes among communities of color are not equitable to the white population,” said Jo Ann Bowman, executive director of Oregon Action, a member advocacy organization for low-income families and people of color.
“It’s been a slow process,” Bowman acknowledged. “The entire subject of disparities is new for many members of the collaboration. While the Northwest Health Foundation has become a strong ally for eliminating disparities, other members of the collaborative have other priorities.”
The Northwest Health Foundation brings together the most powerful medical and business organizations.
There’s a definite connection between high quality healthcare and culturally competent services, said Martin Taylor, health policy manager at CareOregon who began attending collaborative meetings in 2006 while working as a lobbyist for the Oregon Nurses Association.
“I’ve tried to message that for them, so minority advocacy organizations aren’t the only ones talking about it,” Taylor said. “The good news is there’s a greater sensitivity to health disparities among collaborative members. Most of the people in that room didn’t have any experience with population health at the beginning of this effort.”
Taylor would like the collaborative to discuss payment reform as its next priority, an issue that also concerns Andi Miller, senior policy analyst for the Oregon Business Association. Miller sees her role in the group as “kind of a reality check,” because she represents purchasers who can’t absorb any more cost increases.
“The issue of health disparities doesn’t rise to the top of my list of concerns,” Miller said. “I don’t mean to diminish the importance of those disparities, but fixing them should be a function of the overall economics of the system.”

Chris DeMars who leads the collaborative as program officer at Northwest Health Foundation realizes that each collaborative member has separate priorities. But by sharing information, she said, people have learned they share many of the same policy objectives.
 “We’re gathering information on disparities being an important problem, and we’ll see where that takes us, rather than try to force anything,” DeMars said. “The goal of our meetings is not, at the end of it, to decide on one or two health policy priorities that the collaborative can agree on. The meetings are set up purely to inform various members on one another’s viewpoints.”
Building partnerships is another high priority, she added. “It’s a really valuable resource to hear about different topics from different perspectives in a safe environment. We’re in as neutral of a position as we could be because we don’t have any groups that we’re beholden to.”
Collaborative members have often had difficulty reaching consensus on specific goals, said DeMars, but they’ve all agreed to support its guiding principle – to create an affordable, accessible, quality, equitable and efficient healthcare system for all Oregonians “through communication, coordination and collaboration among diverse organizations.”
Here are the members of the Oregon Health Reform Collaborative:


Archimedes Movement
Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon
Health Care for All – Oregon
Lane County IPA
Metropolitan Alliance for Common Good (MAC-G)
Northwest Health Foundation
Oregon Academy of Family Physicians
Oregon Action
Oregon Association of Hospitals and Health Systems
Oregon Business Association
Oregon Business Council
Oregon Health Action Campaign
Oregon Latino Health Coalition
Oregon Medical Association  Oregon Nurses Association
Oregon Nurses Association

Oregon Primary Care Association
Oregon Small Business Healthcare Initiative
PacificSource Health Plans
Providence Health Systems


For more information


Check out the website of the Northwest Health Foundation.

Contact Chris DeMars, Program Officer, [email protected]



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