Opinion | Health equity: A moral and economic necessity

Opinion Pieces

Health Equity is on my mind today. The worldwide healthcare ecosystem is abuzz with the term “health equity” these days; yet BroadReach Group has been addressing issues of health inequity since our founding in 2003. Most common industry definitions define health equity as when all people have a fair opportunity to attain their highest level of health (www.healthypeople.gov). Achieving health equity means addressing the societally and systematically embedded factors that create inequitable access to and utilization of quality healthcare, and that influence inequitable health outcomes.

These factors include, among many things, where you were born and where you live. We have seen health inequity play out on the global stage with the introduction of COVID-19 vaccines. Countries such as the US and UK used their economic clout to pre-order enough of the most expensive and most effective vaccines to vaccinate their entire populations multiple times over.

Importantly, these pre-purchase agreements gave vaccine makers the guaranteed future revenue commitments they needed to invest heavily in risky R&D and manufacturing scaleup; yet securing all the inventory in advance left other countries with few options. Only now are vaccine makers starting to produce enough doses for Africa and beginning to fill some of the country requirements. Unfortunately, this production comes too late to have staved off the terrible 3rd wave that has swept across many African countries, while ironically excess vaccine supply still sits idle in the USA with only 51% of Americans fully vaccinated. This is global health inequity.

As shown with COVID-19 vaccine access, health inequity exists globally. It is also clear that health inequity exists within countries, even within the most developed country in the world – the United States. There are dramatic disparities within the USA in access to and utilization of health services and the resulting health outcomes. These disparities show up across racial, geographic, and socio-economic lines.

With our African experience, confident that the value we have to offer extends beyond the African continent, BroadReach boldly launched itself into the US healthcare market right in the middle of a pandemic.

Through our ongoing US market research and pilot projects, we have honed several tech-enabled solutions on our Vantage technology platform to meet glaring needs in the US healthcare system. One of the solutions we are finalizing for US markets is a “population health equity” solution where we will bring together various data streams, including clinical, non-clinical, and social determinant data to assess the factors that contribute to health inequities in access, utilization, and outcomes. Our solution will then recommend interventions (actions) for health professionals to address these health inequities.

In numerous conversations with healthcare payers and providers in the USA, it is clear that we have hit on a particularly relevant unmet need – health equity – that many healthcare managers are attempting to address.

Health equity is not only the right thing to address from a moral standpoint, it is the smart thing to address economically. According to Medicaid.gov, the total US population enrolled in Medicaid and CHIP (the Children’s Health Insurance Program) now stands at 80.5M people, representing a 14.3% increase from just a year ago. The Medicaid/CHIP population experiences disproportionate health disparities and resulting poor health outcomes. Recent studies place the economic cost of health disparities for the US economy at $93B in excess healthcare cost plus $42B in lost productivity annually, for a US economic cost of $135B annually (“Disparities in Health and Health Care: 5 Key Questions and Answers”, Nambi Ndugga and Samantha Artiga, Kaiser Family Foundation, May 11, 2021).

Our focus on health equity fits squarely in BroadReach’s vision of a world where access to good health enables people to flourish. Our approach to addressing health inequity is driven by our mission to harness technology and innovation that empowers human action. And our Vantage population health equity solution delivers on our value proposition by generating cost savings, operational efficiencies, improved organizational performance, and better health outcomes. Finally, our health equity solution is anchored in our core values, including compassion.

We are compassionate: We care deeply about the needs of our clients, colleagues, and communities, and we desire to serve.

In bringing tech-enabled health solutions to the USA, BroadReach speaks with the authority – the “knowing” – which only first-hand knowledge of issues of health equity could generate.

BroadReach has worked for nearly 20 years to address health inequity across the African continent. Our programs and solutions across Africa will remain a crucial foundation and home village for our global endeavours, and as we learn and implement solutions in the USA, we will bring that learning back to our ongoing critical work on the African continent.

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