On a Quest for Health Equity at work and in communities

Quest Diagnostics logo

Quest Diagnostics is the world’s leading provider of diagnostic information services, serving half of the hospitals and one-third of the U.S. population annually. The company provides results for nearly 2 million tests daily, ranging from routine testing to breakthrough genetic testing.

Known for delivering results that aim to improve public health, Quest and its 50,000 employees are putting themselves to the test in another important way: striving for health equity in the communities where they work.

Quest is part of the American Heart Association’s CEO Roundtable, a group of nearly 50 CEOs dedicated to understanding and eliminating health inequities at work. The roundtable commissioned a recent report, “Driving Health Equity in the Workplace,” that includes guiding principles and strategies for organizations to use as they move forward.

In 2020, Quest launched “Quest for Health Equity” (Q4HE), an over-$100 million initiative focused on addressing inequities in health care affecting under-resourced populations across the U.S. The multi-year initiative of Quest Diagnostics and the Quest Diagnostics Foundation is focused on developing community programs that include donated testing and services, education, partnerships and funding.

“Since launching Q4HE, we’ve built partnerships with community-based organizations, national nonprofits, faith-based organizations, academic institutions and health care leaders,” said Mandell Jackson, vice president and general manager of Quest for Health Equity. “Health care is a team sport, and we are working together to advance health equity; by addressing the disproportionate health care disparities in historically marginalized populations, especially among Black and Hispanic communities.”

Through powerful collaborations, Q4HE supports community-focused initiatives designed to improve adverse social determinants of health in sustainable, measurable ways. Social determinants are the conditions in which people live, play and work. They include income; jobs; housing; access to affordable, nutritious food; and access to affordable, quality health care.

Quest is tackling health inequities in communities in many ways.

The company is joining forces with the American Heart Association to support scholarships for students pursuing health care careers at historically Black colleges and universities and Hispanic-serving Institutions.

And Quest is providing funding for COVID-19 relief and hypertension management programs across the country.

Other examples include teaming up with the Social and Health Research Center in San Antonio to address the impact of poor nutrition on under-resourced predominantly Latino communities; joining forces with Salud Inteal en la Montaña, Inc., to support the creation of a clinic in Puerto Rico to provide care for “long haul” COVID-19 patients; and supporting the expansion of the Green Bronx Machine’s acclaimed indoor gardening curriculum designed to inspire healthier eating among students in 30 high-need schools in New York, Colorado and Ohio.

Other equity-focused changes for patients include revising how Quest tests for kidney function. “The company is removing historical testing processes that calculated kidney function differently for African American and non-African American patients. This race-based reporting is now believed to have underestimated the risk for chronic kidney disease in African American patients which can result in a delay to critical care. Given the new guidelines from the National Kidney Foundation, we are in the process of changing this calculation to remove race as a factor for the assessment of kidney function for this test,” said Mouris Saghir, vice president and general manager of Cardiovascular, Metabolic & Endocrinology Clinical Franchise for Quest Diagnostics.

For employees, the company is offering training, with a focus on frontline staff, to deliver culturally competent care to patients.

“Equitable practices are built into the mindset of how we pursue everything we do. So much so that we have named our inclusion and diversity strategy ‘Everyday Equity.’ Equity is not only prioritized in our approach to care delivery to our patients, but also how we support and care for our employees,” said Desyra Highsmith, director of inclusion and diversity.

Quest introduced Spring Health, a new benefit for confidential emotional health support services from diverse practitioners who provide virtual therapy sessions, support and on-demand exercises. This program promotes equity in action by connecting employees with practitioners who are sensitive to their culture, background, experiences and support needs.

Quest offers employees a free comprehensive diagnostic assessment for underlying issues that could lead to issues for cardiovascular or metabolic health.

“The results equip our employees, not only with the information that they’ll need to get early intervention, but also for them to be paired with health coaches to empower them to gain greater control over their health outcomes,” Highsmith said.

Quest remains steadfast in its commitment to support health equity for patients, employees and communities across the country. The Q4HE team continues to sharpen its focus and refine its strategy to address inequities in under-resourced communities in meaningful and sustainable ways. To learn more about Q4HE, visit www.questforhealthequity.com.

Editor’s Note: Health Equity at Work highlights efforts underway at companies in the CEO Roundtable. However, the American Heart Association does not endorse or promote products or services from Quest Diagnostics or any other organization. Comments and opinions expressed in this editorial by people outside the Association do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Association.