In the final session of the workshop, Stephanie Taylor, the director of the USA Cluster Lead-Vaccines at the Center for Observational and Real World Evidence at Merck & Co., Inc., pointed to several major themes that emerged from the daylong event and suggested future actions that could follow from those themes. Although her remarks should not be seen as the findings or recommendations of the workshop as a whole, they provide a valuable recap of what happened at the workshop and where the discussions might lead.
Recalling the workshop’s keynote address (see Chapter 2), Taylor began by discussing the business case for health equity. “Inequality hurts business,” she said, “and it also hurts humanity.” She added that advocates for reducing health disparities have no stronger argument with business than that it helps their bottom line. Greater workforce productivity also promotes economic growth, which can have widespread benefits if public policies encourage the widespread distribution of those benefits, she said.
Workforce development (see Chapter 3) has a wide variety of benefits for businesses and employees, but one of the most important is the promotion of employees’ and community health, Taylor observed. Having the skills and knowledge needed for good-paying jobs can give employees
the resources and opportunities they need to thrive. At the same time, these employees can improve the health of communities through their economic activity and promotion of health-enhancing behaviors.
Other benefits of workforce development can further reduce health inequities. Examples include training people who have been incarcerated for productive employment and giving young people the skills they need to integrate into the workforce.
The actions of health care systems, including those used by employers to care for their employees, can influence health equity (see Chapter 4). These actions might include employee health and wellness programs, the improved provision of health care through a social-determinants-of-health framework, reduction of health care costs, and better preparation of health care professionals, said Taylor. She particularly emphasized the importance of using data to inform interventions and the need for services that promote health equity. For example, better data can lead to quality initiatives among health care providers that improve care. In turn, improvements in care can help achieve the triple aim of better services, enhanced health, and a reduction in costs.
In its examination of community transformation (see Chapter 5), the workshop opted to focus on successful models rather than a deficit model of describing health disparities, which Taylor lauded. Presenters also emphasized the importance of using existing resources, such as parks, public health programs, and neighborhood solidarity, to improve health equity. At the core of community transformation is meeting basic needs, Taylor emphasized. Health care, nutrition and physical activity services, transportation, violence prevention, and housing are essential for what she termed “holistic health enhancement.” Partnerships across governments, across the public and private sectors, and within communities are critical in meeting these needs and paving the way for vibrant and healthy communities, she explained.
Finally, Taylor listed some of the future actions that could arise based on her observations at the workshop:
- Reframe the issue of health equity around broader social issues.
- Evaluate programs with an eye toward replication and scalability.
- Continue to develop innovative models.
- Use data effectively.
- Look at the association between health equity and the workforce.
- Leverage community resources, especially by tapping into entrepreneurs in communities.
In particular, she called attention to the need for a systems approach that recognizes the multifactorial nature of health equity. For example, mental health services, the criminal justice system, and the educational system all interact. “How do we make sure these programs work together so we can improve health equity?” she asked.
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