Mark Price, MEd, MA
Head, Economic QUalitative Inquiry, Policy, and Access
RTI Health Solutions
This is part two of a three-part series on improving health equity in research. Read the other two articles here.
Part 1: What Factors Influence Health Equity - or Inequity?
Part 3: Explore Neighborhood-level Health Inequities Now With RTI Rarity™
Around the world, there is growing awareness of the pervasive health disparities that exist in many societies. The COVID-19 pandemic disproportionately affected historically marginalized communities, shining a light on the urgency of health equity and access and the need to mitigate mistrust of the healthcare industry.
Along with this increased focus on health equity has also come heightened governmental and public pressure. Accordingly, biomedical, pharmaceutical, and healthcare entities are recognizing their crucial role in addressing health disparities. In response, the FDA has issued a call for pharmaceutical developers to submit plans for diversifying medical research participation to help meet the needs of marginalized populations and ensure greater generalizability of study results.
In a previous article, we looked at a variety of factors affecting health equity and access, such as socioeconomic status, geography, race, ethnicity, gender, and education. This week, we are examining the intersection of health equity and the biopharma industry. We ask, “What role do the pharmaceutical and biomedical industries play in addressing health equity?”
Biomedical, pharmaceutical, and healthcare companies have a crucial stake in advancing health equity, as their involvement has the most direct impact on meeting patients’ needs. These entities are tasked with ensuring that their products and services are accessible and beneficial to all people, irrespective of race, ethnicity, gender identity, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, and other demographic characteristics.
Additionally, closing the gap on health inequities can enable biomedical and pharmaceutical companies to address multiple, interconnected outcomes. We know that health disparities lead to lower patient adherence to medications, increased healthcare costs, and lost workforce productivity. But by having a data-driven understanding of existing health disparities and barriers to access, pharmaceutical companies can improve patient outcomes, reduce costs, and work on rebuilding trust within historically marginalized groups.
Addressing health equity is also essential for biomedical innovation. Understanding and prioritizing the needs of all patients rather than only certain groups can yield new and more effective treatment strategies that have greater patient adherence. By having an intentional health equity focus, pharmaceutical and medical technology companies can better meet the needs of underserved populations and develop products that are more likely to increase access and improve health outcomes for everyone.
The healthcare industry is not alone in seeking to eliminate health disparities—indeed, industries worldwide are renewing their focus on health equity and improving access. The pharmaceutical, biomedical, and healthcare sectors can play a unique role in advancing these efforts, thereby ensuring that biopharma products and services produce more mutually reinforcing benefits, inspiring greater biomedical innovation, and helping all individuals achieve better health outcomes. Research can lead the way.