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Hastings Center News

Advancing Health Equity is “Not Rocket Science”

A close relationship with patients that holistically addresses medical and social needs is crucial to advancing health equity, said Marshall Chin, a professor of healthcare ethics at the University of Chicago, at last month’s health equity summit co-hosted by The Hastings Center.

“It’s not rocket science,” said Chin during a panel discussion at the conference, “Righting the Wrongs: Tackling Health Inequities,” explaining that culturally tailored approaches, team-based care, community health workers, patient navigators, and close involvement of families are among the multifactorial interventions that research shows work to improve health equity.

Chin made these comments in a panel discussion, “The Evidence Base for Health Equity: What We Know Works,” hosted by Philip Alberti, founding director of the AAMC Center for Health Justice.

Chin said that advancing health equity requires cooperation from all groups, including people in finance and health information technology, clinicians, patients, and frontline staff, to create a culture of equity. And it requires people to acknowledge and dismantle their own biases.

During the same panel, Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, vice dean for population health and health equity in the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine, noted the success of the Latino COVID-19 Task Force, a coalition of academic clinicians, medical students, and researchers who partnered with the community group United in Health to lower barriers for access to testing and vaccinations. Bibbins-Domingo said that data that informs public policy and the public health response is needed from academics, but there also must be an effort to gather data that helps support the direct needs of the community during a crisis. Doing so recognizes where we can play a “bridging role” between community organizations and other policymakers, she said.

Consuelo Wilkins, senior associate dean for health equity and inclusive excellence at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center, noted that the ways that we have created evidence in the past have overlooked equity, and the ways we continue to conduct research continue to propagate injustices. She told the panel that when we think about engaging communities and individuals from marginalized and minoritized groups as research participants, we often wait until a study is designed. But we must begin framing research based on those most affected by a given disease.

The discussion took place on January 20, on the second day of the conference, hosted by The Hastings Center with the AAMC Center for Health Justice and sponsored by the American Medical Association, the American Nurses Association, the American Hospital Association, and the ABIM Foundation, which drew more than 2,500 attendees.

Watch the video of the panel.