Reuters Pharma 2024 report: why health equity is everyone's business

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Heidi Bell, Growth Director, Inizio Evoke Europe

Reuters Pharma 2024 conference in Barcelona resonated with a compelling mandate: urging all pharmaceutical organisations to embed health equity within their strategic vision and embrace diverse patient representation across the entire product lifecycle.

Amidst the discourse, one quote stood out as a call to the industry's collective conscience: "The future is here – it’s just not evenly distributed yet" articulated by William Gibson, the esteemed Science Fiction writer and Futurist.

This rally cry underscores the imperative for the pharmaceutical sector to proactively address disparities in healthcare access and outcomes, forging a more equitable healthcare landscape for all.

But what does this mean in reality? Some of the most stark stats shared at the conference included:

  • 53% of patients believe that the healthcare system doesn’t “care about people like me”[1]

  • 50% of patients only visit an HCP when sick[1]

  • 34 years is the difference in life expectancy between the richest and poorest countries globally

  • In Nigeria, the vast majority of women with breast cancer are diagnosed at stage 3 and 4

  • In Europe, within a year of EMEA approval, 98% of people in Germany have access to drugs vs just 7% in Latvia

  • In the UK, girls born in the poorest areas of England will have almost 20 fewer years of good health compared with those in the wealthiest[2]

Health Equity Infographic Data
Health Equity Infographic Data Map

So, what is health equity?

Health equity is the principle for all individuals to have equal opportunities to achieve optimal health, including access to appropriate medical care and treatment regardless of their socioeconomic status, race, ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation.

It seeks to eliminate disparities in health outcomes by dismantling barriers such as unequal access to healthcare services, education, income, discrimination, and environmental factors.

What’s the benefit?

Health equity brings improved health outcomes and economic gains by ensuring equal access to healthcare and addressing social determinants. It fosters individual well-being and importantly societal resilience. Governments and health systems benefit from long-term cost savings through disease prevention and reduced healthcare utilisation, enhancing overall prosperity.

Sounds hard right? But there is hope on the horizon

Promoting health equity requires a multi-faceted approach involving policy changes, community engagement, healthcare system and regulatory reforms, and initiatives addressing social determinants of health like housing, education, employment, and nutrition.

Key themes and takeouts from the conference included:

  • Think citizens, not patients – a significant challenge lies in the fact that a majority of potential patients remain undiagnosed. By reframing healthcare systems to view populations as citizens rather than merely patients, a crucial initial step is taken to address the issue. This shift acknowledges the broader spectrum of healthcare needs within communities and underscores the importance of proactive healthcare interventions to reach all individuals, whether diagnosed…or not

  • The 3 D’s - Diversity, Diversity and Diversity – Inspiring progress was evident in efforts toward greater diversity, yet true advancement in health outcomes demands making diversity a central focus throughout the entire product lifecycle. This includes prioritising diversity in R&D, clinical trial recruitment and active involvement of community and patient groups in access, policy, launch, and patient engagement planning

  • Mind the gender health gap – diversity aside, we need to call out women’s health specifically.  Acknowledging the unique health needs of women is crucial, as emphasised by leaders from Bayer, Boehringer, Organon, and others. Diseases like Alzheimer’s, immunological conditions, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases must take precedence in pharmaceutical and industry efforts to ensure better outcomes for women

  • Tackling stigma head on – from health literacy to better access to medicines addressing stigma is paramount, from enhancing health literacy to providing access to medications free from stigma. ViiV's efforts in improving access to HIV prevention underscore this, recognising that many patients may feel uncomfortable seeking treatment at HIV clinics. The same principle applies to diabetes where health tech can help break down barriers and provide better access for all

  • Embracing wearable health tech – A highlight of the conference was the transformative potential of wearable health technology in improving outcomes. From diagnostics to drug delivery and monitoring, health tech is expanding access to care for a broader patient population who on the whole feel quite comfortable using their phone to monitor their health. It was inspiring to see so much more collaboration between traditional pharma and medical device and tech companies in this space  

  • Collaboration – Mounting pressures on healthcare systems and rising HCP burnout highlight the urgent need for addressing health equity beyond their capacity. Encouraging collaborations among stakeholders—pharma, policymakers, payers, academics, and HCP bodies—offer hope. These partnerships, need to crucially inclusive of patient and community groups to drive better equitable solutions

  • Global vision, local impact – a familiar term in healthcare, but when it comes to health equity this is even more important. Collaboration with community groups, leaders, and influencers are absolutely pivotal in addressing health disparities and fostering equitable access to healthcare

At Inizio Evoke our purpose is to make health more human™, and never does this apply more to the topic of health equity.

We're actively investing in several initiatives in this area, including a partnership with UCL London to investigate bias among healthcare professionals.

Stay tuned for the launch of our Healthcare Bias white paper and research, coming soon. If you're eager to learn more, don't hesitate to reach out at!


1 – ZS global survey

2 – ONS data