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Tackling health equity demands tackling diversity and inclusion

By Annalise Coady

Annalise Coady

In 1966, Dr Martin Luther King Junior said: “Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in healthcare is the most shocking and inhumane.”

In 2022, 56 years later, we’re still battling for health equity. Over the past two years, the pandemic has once again highlighted the disparity, with a recent UK government report stating that Black and South Asian people are among those who have the highest risk of becoming very ill from COVID-19. Black women are four times more likely than white women to die in pregnancy or childbirth. And if you’re a man born in one of the most deprived areas in England, your life expectancy is nearly a decade shorter than if you were born in one of the most affluent.

While the solution needs a multifaceted response from industry and government, at Real Chemistry we have made health equity a strategic priority and recognise we have an important role in partnering with our clients to address the issue. To do this requires building willingness and increasing awareness about equity within the business. Our employees must understand what equity is and why it matters. Patient stories and equity data help build willingness, as does helping
staff understand how equity relates to their organisation’s mission and their daily work.

Creating work that improves health equity has to be reflective of the communities we serve. To do that we take an integrated approach to building teams that deliver the work and know that when the team lacks diversity, we don’t deliver our best to our communities. A homogenous group will yield diminishing returns so, to counter that, it’s important to take a considered approach when attracting and retaining diverse talent.

Hiring diverse talent starts with educating your hiring managers. Unconscious bias often means people naturally gravitate towards candidates that are similar to themselves. This, along with a predefined notion of what a good hire looks like, will prejudice their decision-making. Changing these behaviours can be done through talking and training.

First, challenging the hiring managers to look past a specific list of universities or company names and to look at experience, personality and transferable skills can start to help change perceptions. Following up with unconscious bias training will help them to acknowledge their own bias and identify and realise when they are acting upon their biases when engaging with candidates.

Simply attracting diverse talent to your business is not enough because the key to an inclusive business is retaining and developing diverse employees. This requires effort from your leadership team to consider the culture of your business, the processes and frameworks it uses (or lack thereof) for line management, promotions and mentorship, as well as the examples they set themselves.

It’s easy to see diverse employees in entry- to junior-level roles and think you’re doing enough, but representation at all levels is essential in ensuring that people can see themselves in their leaders and see themselves progressing in the organisation.

Ongoing support
Regular check-ins with your diverse staff and honest two-way communication is the most effective way to ensure authenticity. From those very conversations you have, identifying and providing opportunities for those that need it will continue to ensure no one is left behind. Whether through mentoring, additional support or external training, no-one should be at a disadvantage due to their background or experience. Ultimately, however, you need to create a culture in which diversity is celebrated and embraced.

Only when your diverse team is supported and motivated with a willingness to create health equity can we truly begin to tackle a problem that is hundreds of years old. In its 2020 report, Diversity wins: How inclusion matters, McKinsey states that ‘diverse and inclusive companies are more likely to make better, bolder decisions’ with diverse teams ‘better able to radically innovate’.

And it’s not just hyperbole, it affects your bottom line for the better as well. That same report states that ‘the most diverse companies are now more likely than ever to outperform less diverse peers on profitability’.

We’re on a journey to be more inclusive and diverse and while we’ve made great strides over the past few years, we know there’s still a long way to go. But we’re determined and we’re looking forward to doing more work in partnership with our clients to identify how they can and should ensure diversity, equity and inclusion in their campaigns to help make them more engaging for a wider audience.

Annalise Coady is International Group President at Real Chemistry

Annalise Coady is International Group President at Real Chemistry

1st April 2022

From: Marketing


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