In 2020 Health Trends, we called one of the major emerging developments in healthcare “Acting on Equity,” and it was about all the ways in which healthcare’s stark inequalities were getting new attention from leaders in life sciences. It’s been suggested that your zip code impacts your life more than your genetic code, with access to quality care and participation in clinical trials often seeming like privileges of an urban elite. These disparities are as old as the systemic bias behind them, but perhaps nothing has cast them in higher relief than the crisis of COVID-19.
The pandemic disproportionately hurt Black and Latino communities. And according to Tulane University public health professor Dr. Maureen Lichtveld, this imbalance “has everything to do with food safety and food security. It has to do with how far you live from a hospital. It has to do with economic disparity.” The only way to combat such long-standing systemic issues is through continuous commitment and long-term investments.
Many nonprofits target unmet needs in underserved communities, but inconsistent funding often limits their potential. Ongoing partnerships with such foundations can enable pharmaceutical organizations to have regular presences in areas that need their help the most. And developing relationships with such communities makes those people more interested in and receptive to your messaging.
To determine the kinds of support people need, it’s critical to connect with them directly and empower them to better help themselves, for instance, by recruiting and training healthcare workers who reside in the minority communities they serve. Research and findings based on the work of such newly mobilized healthcare workers is more likely to be compelling and motivating to the patients you’re trying to access, who are probably skeptical on account of being historically ignored by the industry.
On top of regular funding and real community connections, what may be the most important commitment on this front is redoing your own organizational makeup. Evolving your hiring practices in order to better reflect what our country, world, and target audiences look like equips a company to deliver the therapies and support most needed across the globe. It will also begin building the new foundation we need to create a more equitable future.