BOSTON – Boston Medical Center Health System (BMCHS) has created a new Health Equity Accelerator to focus on closing the deepest, most pervasive health care gaps among people of different races and ethnicities.

The heath system-wide initiative, the result of more than a year of research and development, brings together leading-edge research methodologies, patient insights and community partnerships, and clinical operations to transform healthcare. The Accelerator will also be a vehicle to exchange ideas and insights within the wider medical community through publishing and policy conversations.

“For more than a century, equity has been central to the mission of Boston Medical Center, whether it was establishing the nation’s first preventative food pantry or advocating and investing in affordable housing,” said Kate Walsh, President and CEO of BMCHS. “The disparities that the COVID pandemic revealed and worsened in our patient population, as well as our nation’s long overdue reckoning on race, led us to look deeply at ourselves and the role of healthcare in equity. The launch of the Health Equity Accelerator is a transformative moment for our health system.”

The Health Equity Accelerator will be led by two Executive Directors with long standing commitments and expertise in patient equity: Thea James, MD, Vice President of Mission and Associate Chief Medical Officer at Boston Medical Center (BMC), and Elena Mendez-Escobar, PhD, MBA, the Executive Director of Strategy at BMCHS.

The Health Equity Accelerator was made possible through seed funding from two of BMC’s longstanding and dedicated corporate sponsors: John Hancock and the MassMutual Foundation.

The Accelerator’s work will involve deep engagement with community partners and patients, including a community advisory committee, as well as subcommittees in specific areas of concern, including behavioral health disparities.

“BMC’s partnerships with community leaders to share information and deliver COVID vaccines to the neighborhoods where our patients live will serve as the foundation for our community work on the Accelerator,” said James, who is also an emergency medicine physician at BMC. “No hospital or health system can do this kind of change alone – where we are moving from charity to equity - and patients will have a voice at the table, sharing their lived experiences and informing our work together.”

For generations, there have been tremendous differences in health outcomes among people of different races and ethnicities in the U.S. and Boston. For instance, in Boston, Black men are 2.6 times more likely to die from prostate cancer than white men, Black and Hispanic babies have death rates 4.1 percent and 3.4 percent higher, respectively, than non-Hispanic white babies, and COVID cases were 1.5 times higher in Black communities and 2.2 times higher in Hispanic and Latinx communities than in white communities.

“As we looked at the health outcomes in Boston, we saw significant gaps between white communities and communities of color,” said Mendez-Escobar. “We all realized we needed to do more to understand how structural racism is creating invisible barriers to health and act to remove those barriers.”

The Accelerator will focus on five core areas:

  • Maternal and child health
  • Infectious diseases
  • Behavioral health
  • Chronic conditions
  • Oncology and end-stage renal disease

BMCHS has a long track record working in and partnering with the communities we serve to address health equity. As the largest safety-net hospital in New England, a majority of BMC’s patients live at or below the federal poverty line, 70 percent of our patients identify as people of color, and 32 percent speak a primary language other than English.

In October 2020, BMC led the formation of the BOS Collaborative to provide job training and preserve and create affordable housing in some of Boston’s most historically underinvested neighborhoods. StreetCred, developed by BMC pediatricians, has returned $11 million to more than 5,000 families in the past five years by helping them access their full tax refunds and tax credits. And through neighborhood vaccination sites in churches, a community hall and gymnasium, as well as pop ups and the hospital itself, BMC has delivered COVID vaccinations to more than 108,000 people.


About Boston Medical Center
Boston Medical Center (BMC) is a private, not-for-profit, 514-bed, academic medical center that is the primary teaching affiliate of Boston University School of Medicine. It is the largest and busiest provider of trauma and emergency services in New England. BMC offers specialized care for complex health problems and is a leading research institution, receiving more than $166 million in sponsored research funding in fiscal year 2019. It is the 13th largest funding recipient in the U.S. from the National Institutes of Health among independent hospitals. In 1997, BMC founded Boston Medical Center Health Plan, Inc., now one of the top ranked Medicaid MCOs in the country, as a non-profit managed care organization. Boston Medical Center and Boston University School of Medicine are partners in Boston HealthNet – 12 community health centers focused on providing exceptional health care to residents of Boston. For more information, please visit

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