Healthcare organizations could achieve greater health equality if they considered unconventional approaches, such as partnering with community groups and businesses, according to a recent article in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Hospitals should be thinking about creative ways to initiate health care outside its walls, the authors said.

“It is time to broaden the expectation for what a health care system can do … to achieve health equity,” they wrote.

Disparities in health outcomes by race, ethnicity and income status persist, the authors said.

For example, African-Americans are more likely to have high blood pressure than the general population — and are less likely to have it under control. African-Americans are also more likely to have strokes and die from a high blood pressure-related cause, the authors noted.

Traditional strategies, such as reducing the costs of medications and improving patient education, are largely aimed at increasing access and quality of care, the authors said. But to significantly improve health outcomes, health care organizations must think beyond the conventional care a patient receives.

Healthcare organizations should consider whether social factors such as poverty or distrust of the healthcare system contribute to disproportionate access and treatment adherence, the authors said. From there, hospitals and doctors can partner with community health centers and local businesses such as barbershops and beauty salons to “engage patients more effectively in health where they live and work,” the authors wrote.

The article was co-authored by Winston Wong, M.D., director of Disparities Improvement and Quality Initiatives at Kaiser Permanente.

Last fall, Kaiser Permanente invested $2.55 million in a new American Heart Association initiative to improve blood pressure control among African-Americans.

Called C2C2, short for Community to Clinic, Clinic to Community, the program will initially launch in Atlanta in 2015 and later in San Diego. Over three years, the program will help African-American patients track their blood pressure readings and monitor their progress over time.

At churches, community centers and other community-based locations, volunteer health mentors will encourage patients and keep them accountable for making healthy choices and taking their blood pressure medications.