Howard University, Teva Pharmaceuticals launch coalition to advocate for equity through digital health

A cross-industry coalition called the Digital Health for Equitable Health (DHEH) Alliance launched last week with the goal of reducing disparities through digital health.  

The group plans to advocate for policies and programs meant to improve access to care through telemedicine, wearables, AI, virtual reality and other innovations. Thus far, members include the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, the Black Women’s Health Imperative, the Howard University College of Medicine and Teva Pharmaceuticals, among others. 

"Equity isn't just a buzzword, it's a critical movement that will save lives and ensure that, regardless of income, ethnicity or gender, all Americans can access digital technologies that can remove barriers to healthcare management and critical health services,” Tanisha Hill, president of the DHEH Alliance and U.S. senior medical director, respiratory and digital health medical lead at Teva Pharmaceuticals, said in the announcement. “Only by working together, can we make meaningful change in the lives of millions of people.”

The coalition recognized COVID-19 would exacerbate existing inequities in healthcare, including the growing digital divide, but that technology could help bridge some of that gap. The pandemic’s effect “expedited innovation in health technologies, and amplified the need for equitable approaches and technologies to address longstanding health challenges impacting vulnerable communities,” Michael R. Crawford, associate dean for strategy, outreach and innovation at the Howard University College of Medicine and DHEH vice president and inaugural partner, said in the announcement.

The coalition is made up of unexpected allies, Hill told Fierce Healthcare, and was formed to share resources and strategies on digital health equity. In an example of the type of advocacy it intends to be engaging in, DHEH sent a letter to Congress last week in support of proposed legislation with provisions to bolster clinical trial diversity. Those provisions have now been adopted

For the coming year, “we’re not going to recreate the wheel,” Hill said of the coalition’s planned work. It will create its own initiatives to raise awareness about the organization and its mission, but ultimately it hopes to be a hub for resources on the intersection between digital health and health disparities.

“The goal is to show that these digital health tools and technologies can actually bridge the gap” in underserved communities, Hill said. 

The group will be identifying key performance indicators to measure its impact. It also employs a firm that reviews and analyzes public policies on which the coalition can comment, where impact is also being measured. Perhaps the ultimate metric, Hill said, will be growth and sustainability. She hopes DHEH will be a blueprint for others looking to build a similar effort. 

Stakeholders interested in joining can visit the DHEH website.