Q&A: Angela Choberka discusses data collection, the legislature and equity

Angela Choberka is a member equity program consultant at SelectHealth and a City Councilmember for Ogden, Utah. She has served on the city council since 2018. 

In this Q&A, Choberka discusses provider data collection, state legislature programs and the intersection between SelectHealth and the city council. 

 

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Patrick Jones: Can you give me some context on the challenges Utah faces related to health equity, access and inclusion? 

Angela Choberka: “I don’t think Utah’s alone in this challenge. My job as a member equity consultant is to think about how we look at health outcomes for different populations. The disparities that we see stem from things that are outside of the health care system where communities where people live, work and play. That’s why we focus on the social determinants of health. They include making sure people have access to nutritious foods, transportation, ability and opportunity to have jobs that pay livable wages and access to the same opportunities for education. Certain populations, depending on where they live, have better patient outcomes. So the project that I worked on, the Alliance for Determinants of Health, was meant to think about [the notion that] it’s not okay for us as a health care system, to acknowledge that there’s a 10-year life expectancy difference based on where you live and your address. 

We are thinking about how we get upstream further and how we build communities where everybody has the equal chance at opportunity. We are making sure we educate our caregivers about health care disparities, and make sure they understand how they affect different populations so that then we can really focus on gathering appropriate data so that we’re able to validate or to understand what’s really happening. Perceptions are so much different than what we’ve seen in the data. 

One piece of data that I’ve read recently at SelectHealth, for example, was that minority populations are more likely to have a closer relationship with their primary care providers… For some reason, we think that’s not the case, maybe because of some of the health disparities we see on outcomes. But if we look at different rates of preventative screenings between populations, and we start really disaggregating the data, you can see that there are very particular populations that we need to focus on versus focusing on the whole group.”

PJ: What are you spending most of your mental energy on these days?

AC: “In 2020, equity became one of our values and fundamentals. So, what I’m thinking a lot about is the things you could do that would definitely help support making things more equitable. But what are the things we can do to make the most impact possible? Because these are people’s lives. I mean this is life or death in some cases if we do the right thing or not. So, I’m thinking about how our system could change. It’s a paradigm shift to really think about how we think about our work every day, how the system is set up and how we might change that since outcomes have continued to have disparities. What can we do to make real, meaningful change and impact?” 

PJ: What conversations are happening right now at SelectHealth about equity and inclusion? And what can SelectHealth do to promote equity amongst your health care setting?

AC: “Some of the things we’ve been talking about are things that might seem like they would already be in place from the outside looking in. But, something we’ve talked a lot about is [the lack of] lists of providers, care managers or people interacting with patients and members that have special expertise, whether it’s the language they speak or their cultural background. To have more transparent representation within our organizations, providers or clinics would be wonderful, because then people feel seen and heard in a very different way. Also mentioned before, it’s important to collect data measures and [understand] that the data isn’t just numbers, it’s people that are reflected in those numbers. We are starting to think about how we include member voices and member feedback in everything that we’re planning to address these disparities.”

PJ: Do you think that the Utah Legislature is on the right track when it comes to addressing health disparities among their constituents? Why or why not?

AC: “I have been following the “One Utah” plan closely, and I know that there’s been a lot of efforts to include social determinants of health and also to address racism as a public health crisis within some of that framework. So I think we’re moving in a better direction that maybe we have in the past. So, I’m hopeful that these things will be talked about at that level, but also that some real change can happen to address them too.”

PJ: How does your job at SelectHealth as the member equity consultant intersect with your city council position? How do you use one to inform the other?

AC: “I think that there are many cases where it intersects. In a city that has a strong mayor and form of government, we’re kind of the legislative body. So, when I think about how we’re building ordinances that might support building those communities I mentioned before, I happen to know a lot about them from my day job. I think that I use that lens to try to think about what I can do at that municipal level to build relationships across the aisle with different partners in the community, the health department, etc. So, it really is a nice alignment because I don’t ever feel a conflict between those two things because I want people to live the healthiest lives possible.”

PJ: What gives you hope for the future?

AC: “Well, what gives me hope is that I work for an organization that has made equity fundamental and has built goals and created activities and initiatives under that and put resources behind actually making change. It’s not just words, it’s visible action.”

This interview has been edited for length and clarity