Investing in Health Disparities: A Framework for Accelerating Action

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In response to the COVID-19 public health emergency and recent social events highlighting systemic inequities, life sciences companies have issued bold statements reaffirming their commitment to diversity, inclusion, and health equity.

Health equity cannot be achieved without addressing the factors that exacerbate health disparities, including the social determinants of health. The connection between health disparities and social determinants of health has never been more apparent than now.

In response, life sciences companies are seeking high-impact opportunities to address health disparities in alignment with their missions of contributing to a healthier population. Given the numerous and diverse ways that life sciences companies can affirm their commitment to inclusion and diversity, Avalere has established a framework to organize cohesive, thoughtful action across the healthcare industry. This framework organizes high-priority opportunities to advance health equity into 3 foundational domains.

Domain 1: Inclusive Infrastructure

Invest in internal physical, organizational, and social assets designed to support the vision of diversity, inclusion, and health equity. Innovation hubs within the organization can help to concentrate efforts including developing strategies, aligning resources, building physical space, and identifying new solutions that align with overall strategy. Specific opportunities include building and developing a diverse workforce of physicians, nurses, pharmacists, scientists, and engineers from minority populations; financially supporting and providing training for minority researchers to lead trials within their communities; and engaging with women-owned and minority-owned vendors.

Domain 2: Equity-Driven Analytics

Life science companies are uniquely positioned to use data to advance health equity given the wealth of data to which they have access. Manufacturers and medical device companies can explore how to leverage existing data in new ways and incorporate novel data elements that more comprehensively reflect the diversity of populations. Specific opportunities include incorporating information about social determinants of health into existing data sets; integrating strategies to mitigate health disparities during clinical trial development; implementing specific strategies to address diversity in clinical trial recruitment; increasing efforts to identify new assets for products and therapies targeting underrepresented populations; and using strategies grounded in real world evidence to encourage uptake and adoption of new therapies in disproportionately impacted communities of color. To ensure progress toward these opportunities, companies that are committed to systemic change will dedicate considerable resources to establishing industry-specific benchmarks, aligning performance goals with meaningful advancements in these areas, and facilitating durable avenues for feedback on areas for continued improvement from a wide range of stakeholders.

Domain 3: Unprecedented Partnerships

Fostering short-term collaborations to address disparities is not sufficient. Industry-wide change will require innovative thinking to identify strategic partners and establish synergistic goals around diversity and inclusion. Leaders of community-based organizations have the reputation and trust necessary to engage diverse communities. Creative partnerships can be leveraged to address the social determinants of health. Specific opportunities include using innovative thinking to identify and engage partners with whom a meaningful relationship can be built yielding collaborative goals around equity, engaging community leaders in conversations about products throughout the product lifecycle, and leveraging partnerships to address the social determinants of health and the many nonmedical factors that influence health and healthcare.

Figure 1. The Foundational Domains of Opportunities to Advance Health Equity
Figure 1. The Foundational Domains of Opportunities to Advance Health Equity

Life sciences companies can direct efforts across these 3 domains to focus, fund, and facilitate long-term, meaningful progress toward health equity. Each of these domains should be applied across a wide array of business operations from early-stage drug discovery to product marketing to accelerate the pace toward lasting change.

Avalere is committed to promoting equity and diversity in our work with clients, implementing solutions that enhance our clients’ value proposition, and increasing all patients’ access to high-quality, comprehensive healthcare. Contact us to learn more about how this framework can be used to assess internal readiness to address disparities, implement novel solutions, and evaluate progress towards equity.

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