While African Americans have celebrated Juneteenth for over a century, during the Black Lives Matter movement last year, President Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act, which federally recognized June 19th as a public holiday.
But this recognition is not all that came from what some may call America’s racial reckoning; the Black Lives Matter movement’s impact is now trickling down to our healthcare system that is finally asking itself, how can we achieve health equity?
To answer this question, the federal government, state Medicaid agencies, and health plans are now paying closer attention to how they address social determinants of health to alleviate health disparities. Last April, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced a strategy to build health equity into its core work to “better identify and respond to inequities in health outcomes, barriers to coverage, and access to care.”
This increased attention has been a long time coming. Public health experts have known for decades that underlying socioeconomic conditions in communities across the country are some of the most reliable predictors of health and healthcare outcomes. Now, socioeconomic factors such as exposure to respiratory triggers at home, access to healthy food, income levels, educational achievement, housing security, and employment are widely recognized as significant contributors to an individual’s health.
Our focus, medication non-adherence, is a critical area in which vulnerable communities are experiencing worse health outcomes and higher rates of hospitalizations and deaths largely due to socioeconomic factors. However, many solutions to the medication non-adherence problem fall short by framing the issue as an individual behavioral problem and failing to account for social determinants of health that create barriers to medication adherence. If you cannot purchase medication, you cannot take it. You cannot pick up your prescription if you live miles from the nearest pharmacy and lack transportation. If you are single with children and working two or more jobs paid by the hour, taking time to go to the doctor is expensive.
Medications have dramatically increased life expectancy for many, but medications cannot help those who do not have them or take them consistently and properly. Since our launch in 2014, we’ve approached the issue from a holistic perspective. We have supported and engaged populations that have been historically disadvantaged to address health inequities and improve outcomes by helping people take every dose of their medication every day. At no cost to patients, we partner with employers, health plans, Medicaid, and Medicare to surround each patient with a supportive healthcare team. By connecting with patients every day, anytime, anywhere, and in various languages, we help them build healthier habits and improve their health. We’ve seen our relationship-based approach help patients feel comfortable talking about the factors that make it difficult for them to take their medications and ultimately deliver evidence-based interventions to improve medication adherence.
And as we close our offices for the day to commemorate Juneteenth, we’re ensuring that we do more than pay lip service to what Juneteenth represents. We’re receiving this day as a reminder that there is still so much work to do, and we’re heeding the call to do our part to carry the spirit of Juneteenth throughout the year by helping improve health equity.