As Summer draws to a close, the world has not seen equitable progress in ending the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Some countries, including the United States, are experiencing spikes in infections, largely stemming from new, highly infectious variants. Vaccination rates remain uneven around the world. World Health Organization Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has pleaded with wealthy nations to postpone booster shots until the international community reaches the goal of vaccinating at least 10 percent of each country’s population with at least one dose. Some regions remain severely under target, while others, largely in high-income nations, are forging ahead with administering third doses to high-risk populations.
With questions of vaccine equity dominating discussions around ending the pandemic, Rabin Martin examines the issue of health equity more broadly – beyond COVID-19 – in this edition of our newsletter. We hear directly from our clients about this important topic and provide a snapshot of our work to help ensure that all people have access to quality healthcare.
Health equity. What is it? Is it one of those ‘you know it when you see it’ kind of things? But how would we ever know it if we have never seen it? So, what do people mean when they say it?
Working definitions abound, but they all center around the unequal distribution of health care resources based on artificial characteristics. At Rabin Martin, we understand that health equity is only achieved when the benefits and rewards of health knowledge and technology are afforded to all people without regard to racial, economic, or other social determinants.
Our team at Rabin Martin takes an equity-focused lens to everything we do. In the counsel we provide our clients and in our everyday actions as colleagues, we strive to bring equity in healthcare access to bear. We are proud to work with clients on these critical issues. While they might not be simple challenges to face (and force us to reckon with some of our own preconceived beliefs and ways of thinking and working), we know that the time to act is now.
CLIENT PERSPECTIVES ON HEALTH EQUITY
Changing the Mindset about Health Equity: Interview with Dr. Mary-Ann Etiebet, Associate Vice President, Health Equity, Merck & Co., Inc., and Lead, Merck For Mothers
Q: What do you see as the pharmaceutical industry’s role in advancing health equity?
I’d like to flip that question and have us think about the enormous opportunity for our industry and for society when we consider the many different ways that pharma can help advance health equity. Often the conversation around health equity is limited to what the healthcare delivery system can do, but when you refocus people on the goal – more equitable health outcomes – you realize that it is a bigger conversation and that only a whole of society approach will get us there.
For example, we know that 80 percent of the drivers of health equity lie outside the health sector. When you embed a health equity mindset into how you think about business strategy, suddenly all these opportunities present themselves across the pharma value chain. For example, your supplier strategy can help drive economic opportunity. Through OneTen, Merck is helping to lead a coalition of companies that aim to upskill, hire, and promote one million Black Americans over the next 10 years into family-sustaining jobs with opportunities for advancement.
By embedding a health equity mindset into what we do day in and day out as part of core business operations, we will have a greater chance of moving the needle towards a healthier, more equitable society than what we could achieve through philanthropic ventures alone.
Q: How should we be thinking differently about health equity from a business perspective?
There’s a consensus that a diverse workforce and an inclusive workplace are good for the bottom line. Today, it is critical for us to create the same shared understanding that equity, the ‘E’ in DE&I, is also a powerful driver for business growth and transformation. Right now, many companies are leaving that tool on the table. If we are not innovating and collaborating to help ensure that our products result in equitable health outcomes across diverse populations – especially since some historically underserved communities are fast-growing segments of the population with growing disease burdens – then we’re missing out on current and future opportunities to grow our business and demonstrate our value to society.
Q: What excites you most about Merck’s work in health equity and why?
I’m struck by the groundswell of activities already underway in teams across our company to address inequities – from integrating social determinants of health considerations into clinical trial recruitment and commercialization strategies, to meeting people where they are in our patient engagement strategies, and to strengthening the ability of health ecosystems to improve access to quality care through our social impact investments. This really is a bottoms-up movement, fueled by the passion and values and commitment of employees. Now it’s time to take that momentum, extract learnings from what’s happening, and hold ourselves accountable for delivering impact for patients and communities.
Advancing Health Equity from an R&D Perspective: Interview with Dr. Chris Reddick, Vice President and Head, R&D Health Equity, Takeda
Q: What do you see as the pharmaceutical industry’s role in advancing health equity?
When most people think about pharma’s role in health equity, they focus almost exclusively on the need to diversify clinical trials. It’s true that there is a very real and pressing need to diversify clinical trials to better reflect the patients we serve, especially those from traditionally underrepresented populations. And Takeda and our peers are making strides there.
At the same time, it’s important that we work to address health disparities and the underlying social determinants of health that disproportionately impact underserved communities, particularly those of color. We need to broaden our perspective and think about how our work as an industry can help to strengthen underserved communities long-term. How can we help to increase jobs, get young people involved in STEM, and help improve the capabilities of the healthcare systems that are rooted in communities?
Q: What excites you most about Takeda’s work in health equity and why?
At Takeda, we are committed to creating a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive culture – not only within our own walls, but also within communities.
We established our Center for Health Equity and Patient Affairs and embedded it within our R&D organization to realize this ambition. The center works to identify and address health inequities, provide early patient access to Takeda medicines, accelerate the time to diagnosis for children with rare diseases, and engage patients throughout the drug development process.
Integrating health equity into the R&D pathway has required us to challenge ourselves in myriad ways, from adapting our programs, plans, and processes to address identified health inequities to engaging with a more diverse network of patients, communities, partners, and suppliers. Through our programs, we are also sharing our expertise and skills to strengthen communities to improve patient care more sustainably. We hope that this innovative model will enable Takeda to create a more inclusive ecosystem and build greater trust with communities and patients around the world.
Q: What do you see as the big opportunities to do more in R&D to advance health equity?
We, as industry, need to engage communities more intentionally. This includes partnerships with organizations that R&D teams in the pharmaceutical industry don’t typically work with, such as NGOs and other community-based organizations. These partners are critical because they know what is needed in a community and they’ve earned the trust of that community over decades. We can learn so much from our partners: what the community has already done, where it wants to focus next, and what the gaps and barriers are. This approach will hopefully get us closer to more equitable patient outcomes.
Register Now for Merck for Mothers’ 10th Anniversary Virtual Event: September 14th
Merck for Mothers, the company’s global initiative to help create a world where no woman has to die while giving life, is celebrating its 10-year anniversary with a virtual event taking place on Tuesday, September 14 at 9:00am ET.
For the past decade, the initiative has worked across sectors to tackle one of the most preventable global health tragedies: maternal mortality. Please join this special event featuring panel discussions and multimedia stories about the vital work underway to strengthen health systems so they can deliver high-quality maternity care services that benefit all women and their communities. Participants include Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General, World Health Organization, and Helen Clark, Former Prime Minister, New Zealand, among other committed individuals working to improve women’s health around the world. Register here.
Back to School with Actions 4 Aces Campaign
As students head back to the classroom this month, it will be important to focus on learning and healing from the challenges and traumas of the past year. In June, Rabin Martin supported the launch of the Actions 4 ACEs campaign – a collaborative initiative with The Burke Foundation and the New Jersey ACEs Collaborative to raise public awareness about adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and the simple, yet powerful, actions that adults can take to make a positive impact in children’s lives.
Rabin Martin and Porter Novelli supported the campaign which aims to mitigate the impact of adversity on young people in New Jersey. While Actions 4 ACEs is geared towards educators and law enforcement professionals, the message is universal: one caring competent adult can make the difference in the life of a child who has experienced trauma. The launch event is available for viewing here.
GSK and Rabin Martin Present: Avoiding Future Failures: How Should the World Prepare for a More Equitable Response to the Next Pandemic? September 20, 9-10:30am ET
On Monday, September 20, GSK will host a side event at the UN General Assembly (UNGA), reflecting on what we’ve learned over the past 20 months in the COVID-19 pandemic. Rabin Martin Chairman Dr. Jeffrey L. Sturchio will moderate a roundtable discussion on how to plan better for future pandemics, sitting down with Thomas Breuer, Chief Global Health Officer, GSK; Mark Dybul, Georgetown University, and Member, Independent Panel on Pandemic Preparedness and Response; Amanda Glassman, Executive Vice President and Senior Fellow, Center for Global Development; Amanda McClelland, Senior Vice President, Prevent Epidemics, Resolve to Save Lives; and John Nkengasong, Director, Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. Register here.
Join Rabin Martin at the United Nations General Assembly
To mark the occasion of the 76th Session of the UNGA, Rabin Martin will sit down with UNAIDS Deputy Director Dr. Shannon Hader to discuss the colliding pandemics of HIV/AIDS and COVID-19. Rabin Martin CEO Robert L. Mallett will moderate the discussion, exploring critical topics around how to ensure decades of progress against HIV/AIDS are not lost. The discussion will take place virtually on Thursday, September 23 at 10-11am ET. Please be sure to RSVP here.
SAVE THE DATE: October 6, 11am ET Exploring the COVID-19 Pandemic with Dr. Seth Berkley, GAVI
On Wednesday, October 6 from 11am-12pm ET, Rabin Martin CEO Robert L. Mallett will be sitting down with Dr. Seth Berkley, CEO, GAVI Alliance, in a virtual forum to discuss the uneven roll-out of COVID-19 vaccines around the world. The conversation will explore Dr. Berkley’s perspectives on what’s needed to quell the pandemic and reverse the disruptions to routine vaccinations, as well as lessons for the international community. Additional information to follow.
Afua Basoah Joins mother2mothers Board
Rabin Martin Vice President and Head, London Office, Afua Basoah has been appointed to the Board of mothers2mothers (m2m). m2m is a nonprofit organization working to end HIV/AIDS in Africa by empowering women across the continent, focusing on training “Mentor Mothers” to act as community health workers and to provide education and guidance to their peers. The m2m model works to improve the health of communities, while delivering meaningful employment for women living with HIV/AIDS. Afua will be joining Rabin Martin Managing Director Kate Schachern as fellow board member.
Hall & Partners Conscious Health Webinar
In August, a team of industry experts, including Rabin Martin Vice President and Head, London Office, Afua Basoah, offered their perspectives on how the pharmaceutical industry can become more purposefully conscious to improve health and advance equity for populations around the world. Hosted by Hall & Partners, the Conscious Health webinar explored emerging trends stemming from their recently released Conscious Brands Index, ranking brands for their actions to make the world a better place. Panelists discussed opportunities for the pharmaceutical industry to take action to consciously improve their efforts beyond the COVID-19 pandemic. “A number of companies are considering what the proof points are over the next 12-18 months,” said Afua. “For those who have capitalized on reputational equity by having deployed capabilities and expertise to ensure vaccines are developed, the next step is how are we going to ensure equitable access to those vaccines.”
Read With Us!
The Rabin Martin Book Club invites you to join us as we devour our staff’s summer selection. We will be reading The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America by Richard Rothstein. The New York Times Bestseller addresses structural issues created by policies that ultimately perpetuate inequities in health and beyond. We invite you to read with us and offer your perspectives.
Over the course of the year, our staff offered an array of recommendations on books, media, and pop culture that resonated from an equity viewpoint. Here is just a sampling of their recommendations.
- Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi (book)
- Medical Apartheid by Harriet Washington (book)
- Taste the Nation with Padma Lakshmi (television)
- Show Me Your Scars by Lee Gutkin (book)
- Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates (book)
- Insecure by Issa Rae (television)
- The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson (book)
- The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri (book)
- Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly (book, film)
- When They See Us (television)
Contact us here if you’d like the full list.
About Rabin Martin
Rabin Martin is a global health strategy firm working at the intersection of private sector capabilities and unmet public health needs. Rooted in our mission to improve health for underserved populations, we design strategies, programs and partnerships that both deliver public health impact and drive business results. We leverage our deep knowledge and networks across a wide range of geographies and health areas to develop tailored solutions for every client engagement. We have helped many clients create bold global health initiatives and innovative multi-sector partnerships. Our specific areas of expertise include infectious disease and vaccines, non-communicable diseases, rare diseases, maternal and child health, and universal health coverage. Our clients and partners include multinational health care companies, multilateral institutions, government agencies, large foundations and leading NGOs. Rabin Martin is part of the Omnicom Public Relations Group.
About Omnicom Public Relations Group
Omnicom Public Relations Group is a global collective of three of the top global public relations agencies worldwide and eight specialist agencies in public affairs, marketing to women, fashion, global health strategy and corporate social responsibility. It encompasses more than 6,000 public relations professionals in more than 330 offices worldwide who provide their expertise to companies, government agencies, NGOs and nonprofits across a wide range of industries. Omnicom Public Relations Group delivers for clients through a relentless focus on talent, continuous pursuit of innovation and a culture steeped in collaboration. Omnicom Public Relations Group is part of the DAS Group of Companies, a division of Omnicom Group Inc. that includes more than 200 companies in a wide range of marketing disciplines including advertising, public relations, healthcare, customer relationship management, events, promotional marketing, branding and research.