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Addressing Health Inequalities: A Call to Action for Change

health inequalities

Vice President, Strategic Planning Northern Europe, Angela McFarlane and Strategy and Business Development Director, Jim McArdle at global human data company, IQVIA gave inspiring speeches at the ‘Innovating to Address Health Inequalities Summit’. The two leaders explored the impact of long-term conditions and deprivation on healthcare disparities.

In a recent health inequalities summit, hosted by IQVIA, delegates were treated to  thought-provoking speeches by both Jim McArdle and Angela McFarlane. These presentations shed light on the pressing issue of health inequalities in the UK, offering valuable insights into the challenges faced by patients and healthcare systems. This article combines the key highlights from both speeches, providing a comprehensive perspective on healthcare disparities and potential solutions.

The Profound Connection between Long-Term Conditions and Deprivation

Jim McArdle’s speech began by emphasising the significant impact of long-term conditions on individuals living in deprived areas. Drawing on extensive research, McArdle revealed that patients in the bottom quintile of deprivation tend to develop long-term conditions up to ten years earlier than those in the top quintile. Moreover, individuals in deprived areas are more likely to experience multiple long-term conditions, exacerbating their health challenges. McArdle underscored the greater severity of living with these conditions in deprived areas, emphasising the urgent need to address this disparity.

Angela McFarlane’s speech echoed these sentiments, highlighting the far-reaching effects of health inequalities on individuals, families, communities, and the economy. She emphasised the need for collaboration and innovative approaches to tackle health disparities, stressing the importance of understanding the profound impact of health inequalities on various aspects of society.

The Pandemic’s Role in Exposing Healthcare System Fragility

Both McArdle and McFarlane discussed the impact of the pandemic on healthcare systems. McArdle argued that the pandemic has laid bare the fragility of healthcare systems rather than being the sole cause of existing issues. The strain on resources during the pandemic has led to backlogs in care and reduced access to essential services, worsening health outcomes for patients with chronic conditions. McArdle’s presentation showcased the example of a significant decline in diabetes care processes, with only 35 per cent of patients receiving the recommended key care processes compared to 60 per cent pre-pandemic. Furthermore, the prescribing of new diabetes treatments dropped by 20 per cent, indicating the adverse effects of the pandemic on healthcare delivery and exacerbating health inequalities.

“We’re very proud of supporting our people here. We champion health of our employees for our wellbeing programs, and we have inclusive employee resource groups, we have pride, we have the Black Leadership Network, we have a multifaith network, and we have our women inspired network and, many more.”

Angela McFarlane, Vice President, Strategic Planning Northern Europe, IQVIA

McFarlane highlighted that addressing health inequalities goes beyond the context of the Covid-19 pandemic. She stressed the need for proactive initiatives to bridge gaps in healthcare access, improve primary care pathways, and enhance diversity in clinical trials. By focusing on the broader picture, McFarlane highlighted the importance of long-term strategies to reduce health inequalities and promote equitable healthcare.

Detecting Long-Term Conditions: A Lingering Challenge

McArdle and McFarlane both highlighted the concerning decline in the detection of various long-term conditions during the pandemic. McArdle specifically mentioned the detection rates for conditions like asthma, atrial fibrillation (AF), and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) that have not yet rebounded to pre-Covid levels. This trend, observed across 17 long-term conditions, indicates a growing demand for healthcare services and the need to understand the true burden of illness. McArdle stressed the importance of increasing detection efforts in primary care to prevent further strain on secondary care services.

McFarlane echoed this concern and emphasised the significance of data-driven insights and real world evidence to identify and address health inequalities effectively. By leveraging innovative technologies and analytical approaches, she argued that healthcare providers can enhance their ability to detect and manage long-term conditions, thereby reducing disparities in care.

Broadening the Perspective on Healthcare Inequalities

Challenging the prevailing notion of solely focusing on deprivation when addressing healthcare inequalities, McArdle urged the audience to consider additional proxy markers that determine healthcare inequality. These markers include prevalence delta (discrepancy between expected and known prevalence), pathway adoption, adherence, and total resource consumption. By adopting a more comprehensive approach, healthcare leaders can gain a holistic understanding of health inequalities and work towards levelling up long-term condition pathways.

McFarlane supported this approach by highlighting the power of collaboration among integrated care system leaders, life science experts, and various organisations involved in healthcare delivery. She emphasised the importance of trust-building and strengthening relationships to drive change and foster innovation. By embracing a broad perspective and collaborating across sectors, healthcare stakeholders can create a more comprehensive and effective response to health inequalities.

The Soapbox Model: A Tiered Approach to Equitable Care

McArdle introduced the Soapbox Model – a tiered approach to equitable care – as a potential solution. This model emphasises targeted resources and support based on capacity and competency assessments. By implementing systematic processes, clinical tools, and clinical support, healthcare leaders can work towards reducing healthcare disparities. McArdle’s call to action centered around the Soapbox Model, urging healthcare leaders to identify the determinants of health inequalities, drive patient engagement strategies, and collaborate to reduce disparities across various long-term conditions.

Real-Life Success Stories: Collaboration and Innovation in Action

Both speakers shared real-life success stories that demonstrated the effectiveness of collaboration and innovation in addressing health inequalities. McArdle shared stories of a clinical commissioning group in Greater Manchester that transformed its stroke prevention outcomes and an integrated care system that reached difficult-to-reach patients efficiently. These stories exemplified the potential for positive change when stakeholders align their efforts.

“In seven weeks, we reach 3000 patients to deliver that program of work. So, it shows you what can be done when hearts and minds are there”

Jim McArdle, Strategy and Business Development Director

McFarlane highlighted the contributions of IQVIA in driving health forward. Through a merger between IMS Health and Quintiles, IQVIA combines health data science and clinical trials expertise to inform decision-making and improve outcomes. McFarlane emphasized IQVIA’s work in supporting deprived communities, improving primary care pathways, and enhancing diversity in clinical trials. These efforts exemplify the power of collaboration, innovation, and data-driven insights in addressing health inequalities.

Call to Action: Determinants, Engagement, and Collaboration

In conclusion, both McArdle and McFarlane issued a call to action for political leaders and healthcare professionals to address health inequalities. McArdle urged healthcare leaders to identify the determinants of health inequalities, drive patient engagement strategies, and collaborate to reduce disparities across various long-term conditions. McFarlane emphasised the need for political leaders and healthcare professionals to embrace collaboration, share best practices, and innovate to address health inequalities effectively.

By heeding these calls to action, political leaders and healthcare professionals can work together to create a healthier and more equitable society for all citizens. The insights from McArdle and McFarlane shed light on the challenges and opportunities in tackling health disparities. Through collaboration, innovation, and a commitment to equity in healthcare delivery, we can strive towards a future where health inequalities are significantly reduced, ensuring better health outcomes for all.

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