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Thursday, December 8, 2022

Opinion: Leap of faith: Advancing health equity takes patience, persistence, courage

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Laying the groundwork for health equity is a daunting endeavor. Undertaking such an ambitious objective involves patience, hard work and a leap of faith. The challenge is vast, touching so many aspects of our culture and work; how can we get our arms around it?

My immediate answer to those questions is both simple and complex: We must begin at the beginning. Achieving health equity, even within our own community, is not a quick-win project. We must grapple with conflicting goals that put health equity at odds with other strategic priorities. We must elevate health equity into a tangible priority of its own. We must build consensus in our organization and the community. And, to make real progress, those of us in the healthcare industry must choose a path that solidifies health equity as a transformative business imperative.

Roche Diagnostics Corporation located in Indianapolis, is the North American commercial headquarters of the world’s largest biotech company, where more than 4,000 people work together to provide insights that help people here and around the world manage and improve personal health conditions. We lead the industry in the development of diagnostics products for cancer, cardiac health, infectious diseases, women’s health, and in diabetes management. Diagnostics informs 70% of clinical decisions, including the prevention, identification and treatment of diseases, and are a critical part of modern medicine as care becomes more personalized.

I’m both grateful and proud to report that our work has begun at Roche. Last month, we hosted our first Health Equity Summit on the Roche campus. Representatives from nine community organizations. The gathering was our first attempt to understand and reach a consensus on community and partnership needs and define what success will look like. It also was an opportunity to build trust and meaningful connections among coalition members, an essential component of our success. I offer a sincere “thank you” to everyone who joined us in this vital first step.

At the summit, we solidified our focus on heart disease and prioritized these community needs as a basis for continued work:

  1. Develop positive social support networks in disproportionately impacted communities
  2. Improve access to information and education surrounding disease states and risk factors
  3. Understand the impact of systemic and structural racism
  4. Provide access to care, treatment
  5. Build trust in providers, including trust in the sources of information, the location of services and the individuals and organizations providing assistance
    Our next step is to solidify our coalition’s mission, vision and operating principles so we’re prepared to create an action plan with measurable outcomes.

Health equity is much more than a trend. As I wrote last month, this is personal for me, and I’m committed to doing more than spreading the word about the need for health equity. I’m determined to take action.

I believe our coalition shares my determination to transform our community’s healthcare landscape by setting and achieving quantifiable health equity goals. The process will take time and patience. It will take courage and heart.

Are we up for the challenge? Our work so far shows that we are. I’m excited about the possibilities ahead, and I hope you are, too.

Our journey has begun.

Rod Cotton is senior vice president, of strategy and transformation and chief of staff at Roche Diagnostics North America.

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