Health equity expert shares how cardiovascular disparities can be eliminated

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Octavia Peck Palmer, Ph.D., president of the Association for Diagnostics and Laboratory Medicine, associate professor of pathology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, and Roche Diagnostics Corporation CEO Brad Moore.

SPECIAL TO THE RECORDER

By Roche Communications Staff

African Americans are 30 percent more likely to die from heart disease than white Americans, according to the American Heart Association. While Black Americans are 30 percent more likely to have high blood pressure, they are less likely than non-Hispanic white Americans to have their blood pressure under control.

Roche Diagnostics Corporation CEO Brad Moore welcomes Octavia Peck Palmer, Ph.D., president of the Association for Diagnostics and Laboratory Medicine and a health equity expert, to the Roche stage last week. (Photos provided/Roche Diagnostics)

Octavia Peck Palmer, Ph.D., president of the Association for Diagnostics and Laboratory Medicine and a health equity expert, challenged Roche Diagnostics Corporation employees to think about health disparities and the impact of cardiovascular disease. The Black History Month celebration event was sponsored by the African American Business Resource Group at Roche Diagnostics North America headquarters, a division of Roche, the world’s largest biotech company and global pioneer in pharmaceutical and diagnostics, which manufactures tests to help diagnose various diseases, including cardiovascular disease.

While there can be many reasons for the disparity in statistics, including bias and racism, there are other underlying factors, including diet and lifestyle, as well as social determinants of health, such as economic stability, education and where a person lives. Peck Palmer said it’s important to identify the disparity and what causes it so that appropriate interventions can be developed to eliminate the disparity.

Erika Redmond, co-lead of the Roche African American Business Resource Group, and Octavia Peck Palmer.

“Health equity is giving a person what they need specifically so they have an outcome that is appropriate for them,” she said.

Peck Palmer said it is the responsibility of people working in healthcare to identify people who are underrepresented in medicine and operationalize diversity, equity and inclusion principles so those populations benefit.

This could mean something as simple as making sure all populations that could benefit from a test are included in clinical trials, Peck Palmer said. It could also mean thinking about how people may better access products, she said. If they can get results on the diagnostic test at the point of care when they are seen by a doctor, rather than wait for results and then go back to their doctor for treatment, this could make a big difference in patients getting treatment at all and getting it more quickly.

Octavia Peck Palmer, Ph.D., president of the Association for Diagnostics and Laboratory Medicine, associate professor of pathology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and a health equity expert, stands with Roche Diagnostics Corporation leaders before the Black History Month event. From left, Natissa Woodard, global customer success manager, Lori Satterfield, community engagement manager, Peck Palmer, Erika Redmond, implementation program director, Alec Pipkin, associate marketing manager and CEO Brad Moore.

“This is exactly why we invited Dr. Peck Palmer,” said Candy Gee, Roche Diagnostics chief diversity officer. “Roche is committed to using innovation to create access. Her presentation was a good reminder that we have to ensure our products and solutions remain accessible for the patients who need them.”

Peck Palmer also presented results from a 2021 study published by her and her co-authors in the Journal of Applied Laboratory Medicine that surveyed people who work both inside and outside of laboratories and showed that both groups agreed clinical labs should be using laboratory-generated data to help reduce and eliminate health disparities.

“We should be using data to proactively track individuals with chronic disease so you can determine their risks,” Peck Palmer said. “We’re talking about precision medicine. We should be looking at a person and providing personalized care.”

“Cardiovascular disease is treatable,” Peck Palmer said. “We don’t have to have health disparities.”