From the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on communities of color to ongoing police brutality and hate crimes targeting Asian, Black, and Brown communities, systemic racism is an undeniable root cause of health inequities in the U.S. The toll of inequities on patients has been immense, but many aspects of the pandemic have put these inequities in stark relief, energizing the American Medical Association (AMA) to demand more action to address systemic problems.
In the U.S., the scope and impact of these inequalities are wide-ranging:
- The life expectancy gap by race is the widest it’s been since 1998. (CDC)
- Black women are three times more likely than Hispanic women and 2.5 times more likely than white women to die from causes linked to pregnancy. (CDC)
- An estimated 129,630 children lost a primary caregiver to COVID-19; children of racial and ethnic minorities made up 65 percent of those who lost a primary caregiver. (AAP)
Such inequities are shaping the health of our nation. To fulfill the AMA mission - to promote the art and science of medicine and betterment of public health - requires an enterprise-wide commitment to embedding racial justice and advancing health equity in medicine.
Since earlier AMA work on these issues appeared ad hoc, it became critical to articulate a larger, comprehensive vision to showcase our commitment to health equity and outline a roadmap for change. On May 11, 2021, the AMA released its “Organizational Strategic Plan to Embed Racial Justice and Advance Health Equity,” an ambitious, multi-year effort with five strategic approaches:
- Making sure people understand and are able to implement anti-racist strategies across our practices, programming, policies and culture
- Building alliances with marginalized physicians and stakeholders
- Addressing all determinants of health and root causes of inequalities
- Ensuring equitable opportunities in innovation
- Developing pathways for racial healing, reconciliation and transformation for AMA’s past.
We defined our communications objectives in January of 2021, aiming to:
- Raise visibility of the equity plan among physician and patient audiences.
- Engage key stakeholders in a dialogue around the plan to build fellowship in this work.
- Equip and empower employees to communicate about the organization’s health equity initiatives.
Key tactics included:
- Earned media rollout;
- Strategic op-ed and thought leadership placement;
- Surround sound social media and other owned channels to reach target audiences;
- Editorial board-style meetings between AMA leaders and reporters to further hammer home AMA commitment and diver deeper on questions and goals;
- Bolstered and permanent web and intranet presence
As a leading non-partisan voice in health care, our strategy centers around educating physicians on the AMA’s equity plan and encouraging our 270,000+ AMA members and fellow health care leaders to join us in this work.
We conducted a media analysis and internal audit with frontline communicators to inform and create a tough FAQ document to equip AMA spokespeople and Board members as part of pre-launch training.
The AMA also conducted a social media audit to understand trends, important topics of interest and key terms being discussed online to better support our marketing strategy.
Our tactics to launch the AMA’s strategic plan fall within these communications objectives:
- Raise visibility of the equity plan among physicians and their patients:
----Earned media rollout:
--------Press release and targeted pitching to national and health care trade publications
--------Pitched and secured media roundtables with WSJ, NYT, Washington Post, CNBC, and others
----Robust, multi-faceted plan across digital channels, including:
--------Social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn), physicians-facing newsletters, AMA website, AMA COVID-19 Update video and podcast series, and browser-based push notifications
--------AMA News stories that repeatedly resurfaced content
--------New landing page for the strategic plan, and built merchandising strategy
Engage key stakeholders in dialogue around the plan to build fellowship:
- Published an Op-Ed by AMA president, a family medicine specialist in practice for 30+ years, calling for his fellow physicians to join our work
- Outreach to leading organizations that represented historically marginalized and minoritized populations
- Hosted three webinars for key stakeholders (AMA members, public health experts, and peers in organized medicine) centered on organizations representing BIPOC physicians, for conversations with AMA leadership
- Distributed marketing email to highlight digital content
- Retweeted feedback from external validators and stakeholders
Equip and empowered employees to communicate about AMA’s health equity initiatives.
- Launched Embedding Equity resource hub on the employee intranet
- Provided employees a sneak-preview:
- Plan published on intranet and enterprise-wide email update from AMA CEO
- Hosted all-employee webinar, featuring organization leadership
- Provided talking points and message training for 200+ employees who work on the frontlines to communicate with physicians and external partners
- Normalized embedding equity in daily work by collecting and promoting employee success stories, news stories, leadership features and emails
The AMA equity plan garnered major coverage from The New York Times, AP, STAT, Axios, MedPage Today, Medscape, The Hill, PBS Newshour, Fox News, and WGN-TV and others.
From May 11 through September 2021, we generated:
- 1,396 media placements and an est. 1.7 billion media impressions (Meltwater, media monitoring platform)
- 84,568 users to strategic plan-related web pages (Google Analytics)
- 48,165 direct downloads of the strategic plan from the AMA website (Google Analytics)
- 38,978 total organic + paid social media acts of engagement (like, share, comment)
- 15+ interviews for AMA spokespeople
- 1,200+ attendees to stakeholder engagement events.
- At least 10 new AMA members from users that viewed strategic plan content in the same session