There’s a lot of rhetoric around health equality and inclusion. I recently did a brief literature scan of evidence around gender-biased medical research. The stats were disappointing – read here. This post sets out some key ways to deliver positive impact in health and medical equality, diversity and inclusion:
1. Impact Funding
Medical research funding needs to pivot and flow based on inclusion metrics. This means growth of social impact investment funds that prioritise health and medical inclusion to fund trials and innovations specifically targeted at addressing health exclusion and discriminatory gaps and pressure points.
2. STRICT funding criteria
The golden rule applies: measure what matters. Or, conversely, what is measured, matters. Funding criteria attached to medical research grants must have strict equality, diversity and inclusion acceptance and governance standards associated with them. This needs to apply to charitable and public sector grants especially. As impact funders, charities are well-positioned to take the lead on narrowing exclusionary gaps, as are governments. Ideally there would be a significant shift toward targeted research funding to trial medicines and devices for women and diverse ethnic communities.
3. Beyond Compliance
From that funding, we need to see widespread adoption of the ‘gold standard’ in equal, diverse and inclusive medical research and testing, vs lip service and basic-level compliance. We need greater inclusion in panels and testing, which relies on ecosystemic change to bring a broader and more diverse body of people into the research framework. Research questions need to be framed in terms of the impact to all people, not a singular dominant persona. We help health organisations to do this effectively.
3. Dial up leadership diversity
Stating the bleeding (pardon the pun) obvious here: patients are not limited to a certain age, ethnicity or gender and they absolutely have differing levels of ability. We have a majority female caring profession, yet few female Medical/Health leaders. Certain ethnic groups are at significantly greater risk of certain health problems. We need a broader, more diverse and equal population of medical and healthcare leaders to more effectively represent the diversity of our patient populations. Progress is being made but is painfully slow: the pace needs to be accelerated.
Further: we need more effective representation of patient advocates, advisors and spokespeople to drive awareness of ‘delta’ experience of different health and medical concerns. This needs proactive recruitment activity, with appropriate remuneration incentives if necessary.
4. Greater specialisation in gender and ethnicity medicine & Healthcare
There are encouraging signs with increasing diversity in the medical research community, including pharma and academic bodies. We need education and awareness campaigns to help reduce cognitive bias among medical and health care professionals. e.g. impact of hormones for women. Caution must be taken in designing, developing and testing health and medical AI algorithms, that they do not persist or reinforce human cognitive bias. More emphasis on distinct specialisms for different patient populations will help further this agenda.
Finally, we need to effect a paradigm-change in the culture of health and medical research and technology, by enabling and chain-connecting pockets and networks of affiliates and allies active in Inclusive Medical Innovation, globally.
I’d love to talk to anyone interested in impacting this issue.