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Independence Blue Cross hosts first-ever Health Equity Summit

Independence Blue Cross (Independence) recently hosted its first-ever in person and virtual Health Equity Summit. The goal of the event, which was held at the Franklin Institute, was to engage the community in conversations on health equity and structural racism. Attendees had the opportunity to hear from Philadelphia health care leaders on these important topics. They also had a chance to share their experiences with health care services and resources in their communities to help inform Independence’s health equity strategy.

“We’re really pleased to have been able to host the Health Equity Summit, so our members could learn more about the root causes of health inequities and hear from leaders doing the boots on the ground work in our neighborhoods to achieve health justice. The event also gave members an opportunity to share feedback on their health priorities and experiences. That information is incredibly valuable and will help shape our work in the future,” said Dr. Seun Ross, Independence Executive Director of Health Equity.

At the event, Independence members heard from health care leaders, including:

  • Dorothy E. Roberts, JD, founding director of the University of Pennsylvania Program on Race, Science, and Society, who highlighted race as a social construct and not a biological characteristic during the presentation “Ending the Legacy of Racism in Medicine”. She discussed how medical education has taught false information about race and has been unsuccessful in addressing racist policies and practices within its institutions. She also spotlighted how reliance on race as an objective biological variable has diverted attention and resources needed to make meaningful progress to address the impacts that racism has on people’s health.
  • Bon Ku, MD, director of the Health Design Lab and emergency medicine physician at Thomas Jefferson University, who illuminated the positive impact that human-centered design can have on health outcomes and the overall health experience during the presentation “Designing for Trust and Love”. He shared the importance of conversation in health care and building trust with patients. He also emphasized the value of engaging patients with empathy, promoting inclusivity and love in care, and using collaborative design thinking to address health care challenges.
  • Eugenia (Gina) C. South, MD, faculty director for the Urban Health Lab at the Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, who presented “Deeply Rooted: Dismantling Structural Racism Through the Power of Community”. The presentation detailed her work to utilize resources for health equity to create lasting and meaningful change for our communities. It touched on her work to dismantle structural racism through research on infrastructure changes and the power of nature to address health, wellbeing, and safety. It also highlighted the importance of co-creation, shared decision-making, and sharing resources with local community partners.
  • Kathleen Reeves, MD, professor of Pediatrics and director of the Center of Urban Bioethics at Temple University School of Medicine, participated in a panel discussion on a pathway to transforming the future of medicine through institutional change. The panel included North Philadelphia community members Naida Montes, Amelia Price, and Kathy Barnes, and detailed the process that Temple utilized to include community members on the admission panel for incoming medical school students this past year. The community members also shared the importance of identifying future physicians who understand the community and practice with empathy.
  • Morgan Hutchinson, MD, director of education for the Health Design Lab at Thomas Jefferson University, presented “Designing Health Equity: How Design Thinking Helps Us Build Healthier Communities,” which considered the question “What if health care was designed to meet the needs of the patient?” She was joined by Chef Cristina Martinez, owner of South Philly Barbacoa and Casa Mexico and local advocate for food access and workers’ and immigrants’ rights, to discuss their partnership to deliver human-centered services to Philadelphia’s most vulnerable communities during the pandemic.
  • Gail Carter-Hamilton, MSN, RN, CSN, chief of racial equity for the Philadelphia Department of Public Health, shared the dynamic work she is doing in the presentation “Community Engagement and Mobilization through PDPH”. She highlighted the differences between community engagement and community activation and the importance of using both to create health equity. She also underscored the value of shared frameworks to unify community engagement practices and center equity.

If you’re an Independence member and interested in giving input on the work Independence is doing in the communities it serves, please consider becoming a Health Equity Community Advisory Board member. It’s a volunteer group of members that will meet with Independence’s Health Equity department for honest discussions about health equity and disparities. You can register to become a member of the Health Equity Community Advisory Board here.

Independence is a champion for health equity and positive social change in the communities it serves. That means making sure everyone has a fair opportunity to be as healthy as possible, regardless of who they are or where they live. The Health Equity Summit is part of Independence’s broader strategy to dismantle structural racism and achieve health justice for all.

Pictured left to right: Bon Ku, M.D., Sidney Kimmel Medical College, Thomas Jefferson University; Eugenia C. South, M.D., Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania; Gail Carter-Hamilton, M.S.N., R.N., C.S.N., Philadelphia Department of Public Health; Dr. Seun Ross, Independence Blue Cross; Dorothy E. Roberts, J.D., University of Pennsylvania; Kathleen Reeves, M.D., Lewis Katz School of Medicine, Temple University
Greg Deavens, Independence Blue Cross president and CEO
Dr. Seun Ross, Independence Blue Cross executive director of Health Equity
Bon Ku, M.D., Sidney Kimmel Medical College, Thomas Jefferson University

Media contact:
Diana Quattrone
215-815-7828 (cell)