April 11, 2023
Disparities in health care, particularly those involving maternal health, have adversely impacted vulnerable communities in Philadelphia and elsewhere in the country. A three-day event that kicked off Tuesday is bringing together hundreds of health care leaders in an attempt to drive actionable change.
The national Health Equity Forum, hosted by the Independence Blue Cross Foundation's Institute for Health Equity, aims to identify the steps needed to reduce disparities in medical education, digital health care and maternal health. Health system executives, lawmakers and philanthropists are among those in attendance.
"This Health Equity Forum is one of the many ways we're catalyzing ideas into action and demonstrates what our Institute was created to achieve," said Lorina Marshall-Blake, president of the IBX Foundation. "We are delighted to bring together many of our region and nation’s most respected thought leaders on these critical issues."
On Tuesday, the forum is focusing on the need for medical students to be trained to treat a diverse patient population. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, more than half of all medical students are white. Research shows that patients have better health outcomes when they are cared for by providers who look like them or to whom they can relate.
The Delaware Valley DEI Consortium, a coalition of diversity, equality and inclusion deans and faculty from seven medical, graduate and allied-health schools in the Philadelphia area, are helping to lead the day's discussions.
On Wednesday, the forum will address inequities in digital health. The Institute of Equity, founded last year through a $15 million investment, will share the findings from the first study in the region to examine current practices in digital health services and the barriers underserved communities face.
Access to technology as well as a lack of technology literacy often are cited as reasons that patients are unable to use telehealth and other online health services. Digital health technologies have been shown to help patients better monitor and manage chronic conditions. It also gives health care providers the data they need to tailor treatment to each patient.
The final day of the forum will address the maternal health crisis in the country. Black women account for 73% of pregnancy-related deaths in Philadelphia, but only 43% of births. The Philadelphia Maternal Mortality Review Committee has said this inequity can be directly attributed to the overall lack of health care resources and access to the health care system faced by minority women.
Pennsylvania Representative Morgan B. Cephas will lead the discussion on maternal health policy and legislation. The barriers many Black women face in getting quality maternal care also will be addressed.