Approaching health equity from all perspectives

  • Pharmaceutical companies have a role to play in ensuring a better future for all.
  • Advances in medicine are essential to building health equity around the world.
  • A holistic approach to the public and private sectors is needed to drive change locally and globally.

Imagine a world where everyone is able to achieve the best health. A world closely linked to prevention, early detection and healthcare. A world where people can get very personalized treatment at the right time, in the right place. The world in which we collectively achieve health equity.

In 2022, this is not an innovative intention. However, all over the world, we accept that our intention is to make our work a reality.

The pandemic has catalyzed the global dialogue on health equity, and the actors have gained collective energy to address the challenges we have faced over the years. We can no longer ignore the gaps in health care and the health care of the right-wing population.

With diversity, equity and inclusion essential, what can the pharmaceutical industry do to make our future better for all?

Intersectionality of health equity

Simply put, health equity means that everyone has the same opportunity to live the healthiest life possible. To do this, we need to address the social determinants of health and their consequences: poorer health outcomes due to lack of access to quality health care, education, housing and a safe environment, and so on.

The healthcare industry cannot fully fulfill its role of providing patients with new life-changing medicines without incorporating a health equity lens into everything we do from the beginning. This includes working collaboratively, addressing unmet medical needs and barriers to access, increasing the speed and breadth of patient access, fostering excellence in product life cycle management, and understanding the real-world implications of making scientific advances.

We need to look up together, understand the basic changes needed to deliver medicines from scientific discovery, and urgently change the way we work.

Diversity of clinical trials is essential

Today, one in five new drugs approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) shows differences in effectiveness among ethnic groups. Clinical trials need to accurately reflect the populations of patients we want to treat, from the conditions they suffer to the environments in which they live.

The diversity of clinical trials is no longer “pleasant to be had,” but essential. As regulatory bodies begin to expect that trial participation will reflect the real-world patient population, we will address this challenge and work together to ensure that we meet all patients ’expectations.

At AstraZeneca, we are actively supporting industry and nonprofit partnerships to advance the diversity of clinical trials, and we are growing and building inclusive local partnerships that are trusted by the communities we need to reach. By the end of 2022, we will also be implementing a tailor-made diversity measurement tool built into up-to-date data systems and infrastructure for all new tests.

Now is the time to go further

If we really want to build equity in healthcare, increasing diversity in clinical trials is not enough to solve centuries-old systemic problems. We need to apply the health equity lens to all phases of the life cycle of medicines, from the discovery and development of medicines to their manufacture, to the delivery of our medicines. This means incorporating the principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion into the recruitment of our scientists, the identification of new drug targets, the selection of clinical trial sites, and the identification of patients for our research.

Better health outcomes can start with workplaces and workgroups that reflect the communities in which we work and the patients we serve. Employees who express a diversity of experience, background, and skills are critical bases for the business. Multiracial groups, for example, reported a 35% increase in performance compared to less diverse groups.

AstraZeneca is proud to be the founding partner of the World Economic Forum’s Partnering for Racial Justice in Business initiative, which requires individual and collective power to build fair, just and meaningful workplaces. This coalition of 48 organizations representing 13 industries is committed to eradicating racism in the workplace and setting new global standards for racial entrepreneurship in business.

A holistic approach health equity with public-private partnerships

The industry is moving forward, but there is so much more to do. It requires working together to improve health equity in the real world to share perspectives and create more public-private partnerships that address this issue locally.

An excellent example of this is the Lung Cancer Collaboration, a collaboration between the World Economic Forum and the Lung Ambition Alliance (LAA), of which AstraZeneca is a founding member. The partnership, which includes health care, research, diagnosis, biopharmacy, patient advocacy and non-governmental organizations, was formed in September 2021 around a shared and urgent goal of doubling the 5-year survival of lung cancer by 2030. over the past few months, representatives from more than 30 member organizations have met regularly to develop and align viable recommendations on services that governments should prioritize to improve lung cancer survival in their National Cancer Control Plans. This week, in collaboration with the World Health Assembly, the Partnership will make the following recommendations in its report: Coordinated and urgent global action against lung cancer.

Another example is PUMUA, a multi-stakeholder initiative in Africa that is committed to closing gaps in asthma care. AstraZeneca is working with governments and health professionals across the country to address health equity, strengthen local health systems, and improve access to asthma treatments. The program has so far partnered with more than 20 local health systems, reached nearly 2,000 physicians and, in particular, expanded access to asthma treatments in major markets. To date, the partnership approach has benefited 700 public government hospitals and faith facilities.

Local partnerships are also essential to building trust between different communities as we seek to protect access to medicines and care. That’s why AstraZeneca has launched programs like Accelerating Change Together (ACT) in the U.S. that focus on Health Equity, an expert focus, strategic partnership, and employee engagement to create urgent and sustainable change. Since the launch of the program, we have established a Health Equity Advisory Board to provide ongoing external expertise, and have contributed more than $ 4 million in new strategic partnerships with nonprofits that advance health equity.

Inclusion is a right, diversity a force and equity a necessity. As part of the healthcare industry, we need to work collectively and without delay until those words are not words, but a certain reality. Sustainable and meaningful change should be used in all roles as an employer, science-driven business, commercial manufacturer, and public health partner.

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