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Overcoming barriers to health equality

By July 11, 2023No Comments

In April this year (2023), WHO launched the Health Inequality Data Repository.  

The largest global collection of disaggregated data about health and determinants of health, with nearly 11 million data points across more than 2000 indicators, the Repository enables the world to examine inequalities in global healthcare at a level of detail previously impossible.

With the impressive data collection of the Repository now available, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its aspiration of ‘leaving no one behind’ feels one step closer and enables our industry to better monitor inequality and identify where and how change needs to be prioritised.

Reducing global health inequality is one of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) (SDG 10) and is central to other goals such as ending poverty (SDG 1), ending hunger (SDG 2), promoting good health and wellbeing (SDG 3), ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education (SDG 4) and achieving gender equality (SDG 5).

With our ‘patient first’ approach, we’ve been proudly and unashamedly at the coal-face of tackling barriers to health equality in clinical trials for more than 20 years. With a product portfolio that systematically tackles the two main barriers to the effective recruitment and retention of patients in clinical trials: physical access and financial stress, we constantly push the boundaries of what’s possible in patient care to make participation in clinical trials a realistic option for all.

But how can we translate swathes of global statistics into real and positive change across the socio-economic and geographical board?

Acknowledge the problem

Even though clinical trial activity was strong in 2022 following a pandemic-induced dip, many trends have resumed their pre-COVID trajectory – including plummeting diversity in clinical trials.

Despite recent efforts from the FDA, big pharmas, biotechs and sponsors alike, U.S. clinical trial diversity dropped to its lowest level of the decade, according to IQVIA’s report ‘Global Trends in R&D 2023.’

Black Americans make up 13% of the U.S. population but only 5% of clinical trial participants, according to a 2022 report from life science consulting firm Trinity Life Sciences. The gap is even worse for Hispanic and Latino Americans, who account for 19% of the U.S. population but make up roughly only 1% of trial participants.

These statistics are shocking and we can’t – nor should we – hide the fact that there is a very serious problem with equitable access to healthcare within our industry. 

Only when we accept the lived experience of the most vulnerable and underrepresented members of our global community and are honest about the fact that we’re not delivering the same care to them as we are to the socially, economically and racially privileged, can we move purposefully towards change. 

Walk with underrepresented communities

There’s a subtle difference between working with an underrepresented community and working for them.

Many clinicians put services first, mistakenly thinking that simply decentralising a medical process – making it accessible –  solves the problem of access.

But generational mistrust of the medical profession, by its nature, runs deep, so overcoming the trust barrier is paramount.

Walking in a community, meeting people where they are, listening, asking questions, listening again, asking more questions, and then making the appropriate changes is the only way we invite those needing support to be active partners in their care, rather than numbers on a graph.

Be accountable – be the change you want to see

The status quo does not, and never has, worked for the underrepresented and arguably most vulnerable of our global community. Once we have a genuine understanding of the generational and systematic impact of this, each and every one of us has to commit to changing it.  

Constantly interrogate what, when, and how you’re doing something to ensure you’re not leaving anyone behind and if you see something you don’t like – don’t look the other way. 

Medical care is patient advocacy

It’s hard work, it’s unrelenting, and there are centuries of systemic unfairness to unravel, but by all working together, we can meet people where they’re at and take action, either in our own small way or as a part of an organisation, to address the barriers to equitable healthcare. 

Global health equity – what a legacy that would be.

What have you done this month to be the change you want to see?

Share your photos, videos, and experiences with us on Twitter at @mdgroupintl or LinkedIn.

If you’ve enjoyed our conversation, please rate, review, and subscribe to the podcast wherever you listen. It helps other people like you who are committed to driving industry change to find us. 

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