Health Equity Q&A with Jordan Luke

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Jordan Luke, CMS OMH
Jordan Luke, CMS OMH

Jordan Luke is the director of the Program Alignment and Partner Engagement Group at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ Office of Minority Health (CMS OMH). His group is responsible for working across CMS programs, policies, models and demonstrations to ensure that the needs of vulnerable populations are met. He leads the CMS Equity Plan for Improving Quality in Medicare, a four-year plan to increase health equity across CMS programs, which was launched in 2015. Jordan is the co-chair of Latinx, a CMS Employee Resource Group that encourages a diverse and inclusive workforce that is welcoming to all, including Hispanics, Latinos and Latinas. He completed his master’s degrees in economics at Boston University and his undergraduate degree in psychology at Lee University. 

Before joining CMS, you worked at Cigna and spent 15 years living and working abroad. How does that background impact your work for CMS’ Office of Minority Health (CMS OMH)?

I am often asked, How are Spanish and English your first language?” My parents served the community through non-profit work in Chile, Mexico and Bolivia, so I grew up learning both as a native speaker. Another formative experience for me was that I was bullied for being gay. This inspired my desire to serve those who are most vulnerable. Fundamentally, I believe my exposure to different cultures and languages equipped me with many insights that help me respond to a broad range of intersectional issues. My mother speculates that these experiences led me to learn American Sign Language (ASL) as a third language, but I was drawn to ASL primarily because I think it is a beautiful language.

Later, I joined the Managed Care Rotational Program, a leadership development program at Cigna, which values leaders who understand global issues. It was this experience that helped me discover my purpose: to take action on health disparities. After completing the program, I eventually became the director of quality at Cigna and focused my energy on health equity initiatives. For example, one initiative targeted increasing the number of low-income patients that received a Health Risk Assessment – a tool to allow providers to identify and influence the social determinants of health like access to health care, healthy behaviors, socioeconomic factors, and the physical environment, that collectively impact health outcomes, quality, cost and utilization. 

Tell us about the Program Alignment and Partner Engagement Group’s priorities for 2017.

We are one of two groups in the CMS Office of Minority Health. The Program Alignment and Partner Engagement Group is responsible for successfully leading the CMS Equity Plan for Improving Quality in Medicare, which is comprised of six priority areas: (1) Expand the collection, reporting, and analysis of standardized data; (2) Evaluate disparities impacts and integrate equity solutions across CMS programs; (3) Develop and disseminate promising approaches to reduce health disparities; (4) Increase the ability of the health care workforce to meet the needs of vulnerable populations; (5) Improve communication and language access for individuals with limited English proficiency and persons with disabilities; and (6) Increase physical accessibility of health care facilities.

Our work focuses on building relationships across CMS, as well as with partners, to advance each of these priorities – and to broadly infuse health equity into the agency’s policies, programs, models and demonstrations.

What are some examples of resources that your group has developed to reduce health disparities, and how are you disseminating these?

CMS OMH has developed several resources since we released the CMS Equity Plan for Improving Quality in Medicare, including the following:

Building an Organizational Response to Health Disparities: Resource Guide: Resources and concepts key for an organization to systematically have the capacity and readiness to begin addressing disparities.

Disparities Action Statement: Shows organizations how to embed health equity into their Plan-Do-Study-Act (PDSA) Quality Improvement activities.

Resources for Standardized Demographic and Language Data Collection: An overview of standards, best practices, training tools and articles to help organizations understand how to collect demographic and language data.

Catching Everyone in America’s Safety Net: Collecting Data on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in Health Care Settings: A web-based and continuing medical education (CME)-approved Medicare Learning Network (MLN) training course on collecting data on sexual orientation and gender identity, and improving engagement with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) patients in health care settings.

Practical Guide to Implementing the National CLAS Standards For Racial, Ethnic and Linguistic Minorities, People with Disabilities and Sexual and Gender Minorities: A guide with specific tactics and resources for various types of organizations implementing Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services (CLAS).

We have a multipronged approach to disseminate our office’s resources. Everything is accessible and downloadable on go.cms.gov/omh, where you also can subscribe to our listserv for real-time updates as new resources and announcements are released. We recently hosted a webinar titled Actions to Reduce Disparities: CMS Equity Plan for Medicare One Year Later, which is available on the CMS YouTube page, along with other videos released by our office over the last few years. Finally, we offer targeted, tailored support to all CMS stakeholders on a broad range of issues through our HealthEquityTA@​cms.​hhs.​gov mailbox. Individuals can email us for help as their organizations develop a strategic plan to advance health equity, or to troubleshoot or pose a specific question related to reducing disparities.

How can the QIO community help support your efforts to promote health equity?

There are many ways the QIO community can engage in this critical work. First, as we celebrate National Minority Health Month, we encourage you to consider how the CMS Office of Minority Health can equip you to better meet the needs of vulnerable populations. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Our Health Equity Technical Assistance team has expertise in many areas, including data collection, analysis, targeted interventions and quality improvement. We welcome the opportunity to collaborate with you in our shared goal of achieving health equity. Lastly, QIOs can submit health equity questions directly through the RightNow Tool, which includes a list of FAQs in the Health Equity section and offers real-time access to CMS subject matter experts for any QIO questions.

Anything else you would like QIO News readers to know?

To support your health equity efforts and that of providers, CMS will be releasing CME opportunities through the Medicare Leaning Network (MLN). This will include a series on Building an Organizational Response to Health Disparities and lessons on improving engagement between patients with disabilities, and providers. All of these trainings are publicized in the MLN Connects newsletter as they are released. Each of us plays a crucial role in delivering better care, improving the health of populations and reducing per capita costs of health care for all populations, including those that are most vulnerable. We are eager to help you in your journey toward achieving these goals. We encourage readers to subscribe to our listserv, check our website for new resources and to email us at HealthEquityTA@​cms.​hhs.​gov if they have questions on reducing disparities for their patients and communities.