Wunderman Thompson Health is unveiling a new initiative to track and address inequities across pharma and healthcare. The program, Health4Equity, is a big part of WPP’s broader $30 million investment in diversity and inclusion.
Like many industry DE&I initiatives, the impetus for Health4Equity was last year’s #BlackLivesMatter protests and ongoing disparities exacerbated by COVID-19.
“The protests last summer allowed us to bring this conversation to the forefront,” said WTH associate account director Alix Montes. “We had this idea to put together a health equity practice that could provide resources for teams internally when they’re working with clients who have diverse needs, as well as partner with our clients with specific targeted expertise.”
Health4Equity is set to unfold over the next three years, during which inequities in the treatment of mental health, oncology and rare disease, among other conditions, will be addressed. In the first year, the program will prioritize COVID-19 vaccination in BIPOC communities, maternal health among Black women and earlier prostate cancer screening in Black men.
Dania Alarcon, WTH’s chief medical officer, said the company is “still in the throes” of defining the breadth of the program’s offerings. But she stressed that it will include awareness efforts via education campaigns, resource and network gap identification, and improving access to care.
One of the distinguishing aspects of Health4Equity is the Preventability Index, a monitoring system that will gather data on the initiatives as they’re being implemented. Set to debut in 2022, the Index will attempt to measure the true impact of the program.
“We want to have a regular cadence and flow to how we attack different inequities,” Alarcon explained. “If we’re able to quantify and provide a data metric against these different parameters, we’re able to focus on where we need to adapt it or how to scale it to have an even broader impact.”
So far, the WTH team has worked with clients like Pfizer and clinical trials firm Medidata. For Pfizer, WTH has provided data-driven communications to help the company reach underserved audiences.
“We work in a more consultative role for some of the initiatives Pfizer has going on in certain disease areas,” Montes said. “For other teams, we work with them to audit their current patient-facing and HCP-facing communications to identify opportunities to make them more inclusive, whether in expanding some of the languages they’re using or making sure things are more accessible.”
The work with Medidata, on the other hand, has focused on addressing the lack of diversity in clinical trials.
Alarcon believes the Health4Equity rollout will inevitably involve some trial and error. Still, she hopes WTH will eventually be able to streamline the process in a manner that allows for easier implementation.
“A goal for the long-term would be to have a process in place that helps us address inequities no matter where they stem from and address the needs of intersectional communities like the Black deaf population, where there may be multiple different factors contributing to the inequities,” she said. “We want to ensure that whatever initiatives we’re implementing are having an impact for these populations – and wherever they’re not, we want to be able to adapt and scale them so they do become something that’s really driving a closing of the gap in health inequities.”