Philadelphia-area health care professionals take part in Health Equity forum

In Philadelphia, the beginning of Black Maternal Health Week kicked off with a three-day event aimed at reducing health disparities. 

The Independence Blue Cross Foundation is hosting their National Health Equity Forum aimed at reducing inequalities in our healthcare system. 

Tuesday, the focus was on making sure medical students know how to treat all patients the same—regardless of their race or wealth.

"It’s not logical. It doesn’t make sense that just the color of your skin can actually directly impact a health outcome," explained Dr. Leon McCrea of Drexel University’s College of Medicine. 

"If the pandemic taught us anything, it's that we have some health disparities, especially in underserved areas. So, we can use digital health [to] effectively model for underserved areas to ensure that folks have ready access to care at all levels," added Steve Fera, Independence Blue Cross Executive Vice President of Public Affairs & Government Markets. 

Doctors, educators, students, and researchers who gathered Tuesday will impact how $15 million from the foundation will be used to advance health equity. 

"It isn't necessarily, you know, whether I'm African American, or white, or Hispanic or Latinx. It is a lot of times what is the social condition in which I'm living, that actually impacts my health," Dr. McCrea added. 

Maternal health was a key topic Tuesday as the CDC says Black women are three times more likely to die from pregnancy related causes than white women. 

"Philadelphia has a disproportionate share of Black women. 73% of all deaths in pregnancy impact women of color, Black women. Yet, they're only responsible for 43% of births, there's a divide and we can solve," Fera added. 

According to the Association of American Colleges, more than half of all medical students are white. But Dr. Iris Ruiz says patients have better health outcomes when their providers can relate to them. 

"Having medical students, residents, fellows, and doctors who are of color who can really better in many ways understand the patients that you're serving, it just really adds to the entire process," Dr. Ruiz explained.