November 17, 2022
DVP, Global Citizenship and Sustainability, Abbott Fund
Access to health care is an ongoing issue in the U.S., especially among lower-income communities. Increasing health equity and fair access for all requires action from businesses and government systems alike.
At the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s 2022 Business Solves Corporate Citizenship Conference, industry experts spoke about how businesses are taking action to create a healthier future for all and achieve health equity.
Health Equity Involves More than Access to Clinical Care
“I see the ills of our country show up in my exam room, on my telemedicine visits, [and] in the homes of patients I care for,” Bhatt said. “I've come to the realization that health inequities [are] America's chronic condition. We've continued to put Band-aids on or not even address these issues rather than thinking more upstream about that."
Bhatt compared the current health care challenges to the saying: “Give a man a fish, feed him for a day; teach a man to fish, feed him for a lifetime.”
“When we think about the complexity of health equity and that old adage: What about teaching women?” Bhatt continued. “What about communities that are historically denied fishing equipment?
What about the pond being polluted? That's [how] health equity … shows up.”
“There are differences among people where there shouldn't be those differences,” he said. “How do we give everyone the possibility and the opportunity to have a fair and just shot at health and wellbeing?”
Bhatt noted that, after treating his patients, he feels he is sending them back to the same conditions that made them sick in the first place.
“We can do everything right clinically, but they could still have worsening outcomes,” he said.
Health Equity Depends on Identifying and Addressing Health Disparities Within Communities
According to Tracy Malone, President of United Health Foundation and SVP of UnitedHealth Group, “about 80% of what influences a person's health actually happens outside a medical clinic or a doctor’s office.”
“We really look at data at the population level to get insights on what [is] causing these health disparities,” Malone said. “The United Health Foundation has been looking at this for years through our America's Health Rankings platform … and we're able to use this data to really identify health disparities by race, ethnicity, gender, age, geography, income, and education to really inform the actions we take as a company to advance health.”
Last year, UnitedHealth Group issued its inaugural America's Health Rankings (AHR) Health Disparities Report. Malone summed up the report’s noteworthy data points.
“Women have a 70% higher rate of depression compared to men, and those with less than a high school education actually had 123% higher incidents of frequent mental distress,” said Malone. “Even more concerning were the widening racial disparities that we continue to see in maternal health … [like] the persistent disparities for Black mothers and their high rates of maternal mortality.”
“We take that data and how we put that into action is we really use it to help us formulate our community partnerships,” she said.
From the Series