What Is Health Equity?

There are a variety of topics that are growing in importance for employers, educators and lawmakers alike. In 2022, everyone was focusing on ESG and analyzing the impact their companies had on their communities, employees and customers. In 2023, there is a new topic that will be top of mind for the country’s biggest and most influential companies as well as DiversityInc: health equity.

What Is Health Equity?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), health equity is giving everyone a fair shot at achieving their “highest level of health,” both mentally and physically.

Attaining a high level of health seems like it should be a basic human right, but we’re not there yet. Everyone is not achieving the highest level of care due to some key barriers that have to be overcome to achieve health equity for all. Some of those barriers include:

  • Health disparities
  • Racism
  • Politics
  • Insurance coverage

These are just a few of the things that are preventing people from getting the care they need, and all of these factors impact people of color and underrepresented communities disproportionately.

Health equity topics of crucial importance can include things like diversifying clinical trials, the importance of healthcare community partnerships, how companies conduct health equity audits, creating inclusive benefit policies and more.

This is to say nothing of legislation and its impact on health equity, such as the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act and the Inflation Reduction Act’s insulin cap.

Health equity took center stage at the Center for Healthcare Innovation’s Diversity, Inclusion & Health Equity Symposium – East Coast in New York City this week, where DiversityInc CEO Carolynn Johnson spoke and led a panel discussion titled “Building a Diverse Healthcare Workforce: Best Practices for Recruiting, Hiring & Promoting Professionals of Color.”

Ricki Farley, CEO, Touch – The Black Breast Cancer Alliance

Ricki Farley is a breast cancer survivor who was told she had two years to live by doctors until she found a doctor in Atlanta who used an experimental drug on her that saved her life. She’s now been cancer-free for 11 years.

During her welcoming address at the healthcare symposium on January 18, Farley said she doesn’t like hearing the word “underserved” when it comes to communities of color. She prefers “unsupported.”

“I changed the word to ‘unsupported’ because we don’t even know what we don’t know,” she said.

Farley mentioned President Biden’s reignition of Cancer Moonshot, a National Cancer Institute program that was initially launched in 2016. The initiative was initially launched with goals “to accelerate scientific discovery in cancer, foster greater collaboration, and improve the sharing of cancer data,” according to NIH, and Biden has a new goal for the program: “to reduce the cancer death rate by half within 25 years and improve the lives of people with cancer and cancer survivors.”

Farley said she’s glad Cancer Moonshot is in place, but the goals of the initiative, from 2016 and today, are things that should already be happening.

“Where’s the accountability?” Farley remarked. “Every day during COVID, Dr. Fauci came on the news every night and talked about COVID, he talked about the vaccine before there was one, he talked about progress, he talked about how many people died, and he was like the czar of COVID.

“We need a czar for cancer. We need a czar for heart disease. We need somebody that’s accountable for what’s happening in our health industry.”

DeRonn Kidd, Senior Manager, Project Program Manager, Aetna, a CVS Health Company

Health disparities have always been there, but the COVID-19 pandemic shed more light on those issues, causing some companies like Aetna and CVS Health (No. 28 on DiversityInc’s 2022 Top 50 Companies for Diversity list) to take action.

Aetna’s DeRonn Kidd said during the healthcare symposium that the pandemic caused his company to focus more on personalized care by understanding the needs of patients and finding ways to develop strategies and services “that specifically drill down at the population health level.”

One strategy the company has had success with is its omni-channel strategy and reaching patients in different ways through text messaging, mailers or through its local retail pharmacies.

“We’re thinking of different ways to reach our patients where they are to ensure they are aware of the available services or the available resources needed to achieve their best possible health,” he said.

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