Detroit Regional Chamber > Racial Justice & Economic Equity > Khaldun at Crain’s Health Summit: Equity Must Be Embedded to Make a Difference in Disparities

Khaldun at Crain’s Health Summit: Equity Must Be Embedded to Make a Difference in Disparities

October 25, 2022

Crain’s Detroit Business
David Eggert

Oct. 20, 2022

Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, a face of Michigan’s public health response to COVID-19, said Thursday that health care organizations must be purposeful about tackling health disparities in all that they do and not view the problem as something to be solved only with one-off fixes.

Khaldun, who became CVS Health’s vice president and chief health equity officer a year ago after serving as the state’s chief medical executive during the first year-and-a-half of the pandemic, called health inequities a “crisis.”

“You really have to be intentional when it comes to health disparities and driving health equity forward,” she said during a keynote address at the Crain’s Health Care Leadership Summit. “If you’ve got a health equity office and they’re running (a) program that’s going to serve 100 people this year, you’re doing it wrong. You have to integrate health equity in how you just do your everyday work. You have to have buy-in.”

Inequities and disparities tied to race, ethnicity gender, and other factors, she said, “are not a way of life. You can actually do something about them.” There is a business case for health equity, she said, noting that 56% of the U.S. workforce will be people of color by 2050. She also cited a study that found $320 billion in health care costs this year are due to health inequities.

“Health equity is not just like, ‘I feel good. Of course I want to help the sick and the poor,’” she said. “If you are not looking up and thinking about how you addressing disparities in your workforce and for the people that you’re serving, you will be behind. … If you want to make money and keep your business healthy, you have to be looking at health inequities and disparities.”

Khaldun, an executive at one of the world’s largest health care companies, said health equity is not about one person, one office, or an initiative that is launched.

“If you actually want to address the disparities that we’re talking about, and talking about long term for broad populations, you have to just make it deeply embedded in how you do your business, the work of your business every single day,” she said.

In a question-and-answer session following her keynote, she said she joined CVS — whose subsidiaries include Aetna and CVS Caremark — to “do things big … at scale. We serve over 100 million people every single day.”

She still works part-time as an emergency room doctor at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit. Previously, she was director and health officer for the Detroit Health Department and chief medical officer in Baltimore.

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