Working Together for Better Health

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to attend the National Association of Black Journalist's 2012 Media Institute on Health Disparities and Health Policy Conference, where Lilly presented a panel entitled, "Diabetes in the Black Community: Working Together for Better Health."  The panel's experts and advocates focused on diabetes-related health disparities in the African American community and on policy solutions to address these disparities.  Dr. Tyeese Gaines, health editor, TheGrio/NBC News moderated the panel, which included:
  • David M. Kendall, M.D., Distinguished Medical Fellow, Lilly Diabetes, Eli Lilly and Company; Former Chief Scientific and Medical Officer of the American Diabetes Association
  • Janice Harris, RN, BSN, CDE, Program Director, Howard University Hospital Diabetes Treatment Center
  • Hal Smith, Ed.D. Vice President, Education and Youth Development, National Urban League
  • LaShawn Worsley McIver, M.D. , Policy Director, American Diabetes Association 
  • Cedric Bright, M.D., Assistant Dean of Special Programs and Admissions in the Department of Medical Education , UNC at Chapel Hill School of Medicine
According to the American Diabetes Association, diabetes does not impact all communities equally.  African-Americans have the highest prevalence of diagnosed diabetes as compared to all other ethnic groups in the United States.  Because disparities exist in prevalence and circumstances, all panelists agreed on the importance of cultural competency in health care delivery.  
Dr. Kendall sited the definition of cultural competency provided by Surgeon General Regina M. Benjamin, M.D., M.B.A., which is "Helping patients maintain their dignity."  Dr. Bright added that true patient-centered care is about meeting patients where they are and understanding that disparities and differences in circumstance exist.
So, understanding that disparities exist, what can be done?  Robust partnerships among providers, advocates and industry allies within communities can provide the foundation for bridging these disparity gaps.  All panelists represented organizations who exemplify the power of partnerships.  I was inspired by their commitment to curbing the effects of health disparities on people living with diabetes in the African-American community and proud of Lilly's ability to ally with such dedicated groups of advocates.  For a terrific example of a Lilly partnership, check out Lilly's F.A.C.E. Diabetes campaign.