Innovation: A Key to Advancing Health Equity

Innovation: A Key to Advancing Health Equity

Nearly every facet of today’s healthcare sector is changing at breathtaking speed. New innovations are expanding the boundaries of what is possible and helping change how care is delivered to all populations. These developments are critical for driving improvements in health outcomes and reducing pervasive health disparities.

Virtual care, for example, is making it easier for people to access healthcare regardless of their location or transportation barriers. Technology is also being used to develop new tools that can help people manage their health, such as wearable devices that can track people’s physical activity and sleep patterns and mobile apps that can provide information about healthy eating and exercise.

Innovation is also happening in the field of medicine. New drugs and treatments are being developed that can help to prevent and treat diseases that disproportionately affect certain populations. For example, a new HIV vaccine is being developed that could help to prevent HIV infection in people who are at high risk.

However, real innovation cannot be accomplished without an emphasis on equity and justice. To ensure modern innovations are not widening racial and ethnic disparities, all healthcare stakeholders should help infuse equity into the design and development of health technologies as well as the policies that govern them.

For example, health information can be made more accessible in digital and multi-media formats by improving patients’ access and literacy with health technologies. Black and Latino patients often struggle to receive appropriate, culturally sensitive care because of limitations with medical technologies. Overcoming these barriers is critical to ensuring better health outcomes for all patients.

Innovative policies and public health programs that espouse the core principles of equity can help improve access to quality care as well. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health (REACH) program exemplifies such an effort. The 5-year program aims to “improve health, prevent chronic diseases, and reduce health disparities among racial and ethnic populations with the highest risk, or burden, of chronic disease.”

To make innovation a force for equity, we should also work to avoid policies and approaches that undermine the ability of innovators to reduce pervasive health disparities.

According to a new study conducted by Vital Transformation, new legislation in Congress may prevent the discovery of up to 237 new drugs over the next decade. This lack of discovery threatens to further widen the healthcare outcome gap between minority communities and the general population.

As advances in technology continue to redefine the ways patients and health systems interact, it is critical that we incentivize new research and development and foster an economic environment conducive to innovative solutions that aim to reduce health disparities and improve healthcare outcomes for all.

With the right approach, innovation can be the key to addressing unmet medical needs, expanding treatment options, and achieving equitable healthcare.