Here’s to Your Good Health — And Everyone Else’s Too!
Many people understand today that women and underrepresented people continue to earn less than white men, have fewer job opportunities, are promoted less often and, as entrepreneurs, have far less access to investment capital. We may be less aware of the stark differences in health care and outcomes.
Monica Motivates is committed to building and supporting solutions to improve health outcomes for underserved communities.
Landmark partnership with American Heart Association
As part of our mission to educate, activate and sustain health equity for historically underrepresented communities, Monica Motivates is now a proud part of the American Heart Association’s (AHA) “Adopt-A-Clinic” program. We are providing free blood pressure cuffs to meet the needs of underserved communities and helping the AHA expand its Know Your Numbers campaign to empower individuals to monitor and take charge of their blood pressure. We’re also regular participants in the annual Midland Health Walk to raise awareness around heart health and the needs of medically underserved communities.
This effort fits perfectly with our primary mission to close the opportunity gap and drive economic inclusion for all. If you aren’t healthy and able to perform at your best physically and mentally, you can’t reach your potential as a corporate leader or business owner either.
A critical gap to close
The statistics on health inequity among marginalized communities are as stark and persistent as gaps in education, earnings and access to funding. They grow from the same tree — longstanding structural and systemic inequities rooted in racism and discrimination.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) defines health disparities as, “preventable differences in the burden, disease, injury, violence, or in opportunities to achieve optimal health experienced by socially disadvantaged racial, ethnic, and other population groups and communities.” These disparities can be due to less access to care, quality of care, affordability and differences in health insurance coverage.
The Kaiser Family Foundation reports that, in addition to being driven by race and ethnicity, health disparities also occur across socioeconomic status, age, geography, language, gender, disability status, citizenship status and sexual identity and orientation. Black people are 30% more likely to die from heart disease than white peers. Hispanic women are 40% more likely to have cervical cancer and 30% more likely to die from it than white women. Members of the LGBTQIA+ community are less likely to have health insurance, more likely to delay care and more likely to report unfair treatment by providers.
People from marginalized populations also have less access to mental health services and experience daily stresses due to economic disparities and the impact of discrimination itself.
The Business Case
The ethical case for health equity is self-evident; everyone deserves the right to live their best and healthiest life. The business case is strong too. Deloitte consulting estimates that, “Inequities in the U.S. health system cost approximately $320 billion today and could eclipse $1 trillion in annual spending by 2040 if left unaddressed.”
Health inequities can lead employees to miss work more often or be less productive at work. Health disparities also contribute to $93 billion in excess medical costs due to chronic diseases and a lack of preventive care. In addition to continuing to invest in DEI initiatives, business leaders and employers of all sizes can take these steps to help address health equity now.
- Carefully evaluate existing health plan offerings. Reassessing your company’s health plan with an eye to inequities can reveal unintended consequences. For example, higher co-payments for emergency room visits can create additional barriers for people from marginalized groups who often have less access to primary care close to home. When employers cover more of these costs, they often reduce overall costs. “In a randomized clinical trial whose results were published in the New England Journal of Medicine and Health Affairs,patients from racial and ethnic minority groups whose employers covered all the costs of their preventive medications after they had suffered heart attacks had 35% fewer major complications than patients with co-payments, and 70% lower total health care costs,” according to medical doctors Shantanu Nundy and Lisa Cooper writing in Harvard Business Review.
- Address the social determinants of health. Extensive research shows that 80% of health outcomes are determined by income level, educational level, health behaviors and environment, including air quality and access to healthy food. A 2021 survey by McKinsey & Company found that 65% of full-time employees of large U.S. employers had experienced at least one unmet basic need. When employers also consider the social determinants of health, they can help team members contribute more fully.
- Leverage virtual care and community partnerships. Many communities do not have adequate primary and mental health care services, or people may not be able to access them due to transportation issues or work schedules. Ensuring that virtual health care services are as comprehensive as possible can help address these gaps.
- Make benefits easy to understand and access. Insurance plans are complicated and it can be difficult to know if your visit or a procedure will be covered. Providing one point of contact for employees to get help understanding and accessing benefits can decrease stress, increase access, boost productivity and increase employee allegiance.
- Collect data and track results. Nundy and Cooper suggest using voluntary health and well-being assessments that include self-reported race, ethnicity, gender and sexual identity as well as information on the social determinants of health. They point to a 10-question instrument from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services that could serve as a template for others. They also stress tracking usage of services by populations as one metric of progress as overall health outcomes require a longer-term horizon.
“By using a health equity lens and proven strategies to eliminate disparities, employers can improve business outcomes, create a better employee experience, and advance health for all,” Drs. Nundy and Cooper advise.
At Monica Motivates, we see addressing health equity as another piece of the puzzle to close the opportunity gap and drive economic inclusion for everyone.