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The multiple crises unfolding since early 2020 have exposed longstanding inequities and problems in health care and sparked a new sense of urgency for today’s leaders to address them in earnest.

To invigorate thinking and establish relationships that drive impactful change, the Health Evolution Virtual Confab 2021 began on Tuesday with discussion leaders sharing their unique insights and experiences about how leadership itself has evolved in the last 12-15 months, the necessary investment to develop future leaders, and what they said needs to happen next for the health care system to strive toward becoming anti-racist.

In many ways, the longstanding real and severe inequities in health care were poised to exacerbate a pandemic such as COVID-19.

“Every organization that is touching health in some way needs to figure out its responsibility and its position to address inequities. Just to be really clear, it’s important to say that even though we assume everyone is on the same page about this, the inequities that we saw in COVID did not surprise a lot of us who have been working in health disparities for decades,” said J. Nwando Olayiwola, MD, SVP & Chief Health Equity Officer, Humana.

Identifying that responsibility and developing strategies to understand and act upon an organization’s position relative to advancing equity requires strong leadership today and among the next generation of leaders moving into the post-pandemic world.

Driving substantive change will impact some of health care’s core values, notably the way in which the U.S. finances and places a value on health, according to Carladenise Edwards, PhD, EVP & Chief Strategy Officer, Henry Ford Health System.

“We need investment in leaders who are willing to identify new ways of implementing change. Notice, I said new ways of implementing change. People who are brave enough and courageous enough to drive change and folks who can execute flawlessly,” Edwards said. “Then we need to figure out how to pay for it. Now, that doesn’t necessarily mean we go to the extremes as the political arenas have done, but it does mean we need that middle ground to make sure everybody gets what they need and has access to health.”

Tom Sullivan

Tom Sullivan brings more than two decades in editing and journalism experience to Health Evolution. Sullivan most recently served as Editor-in-Chief at HIMSS, leading Healthcare IT News, Health Finance, MobiHealthNews. Prior to HIMSS Media, Sullivan was News Editor of IDG’s InfoWorld, directing a dozen reporters’ coverage for the weekly print publication and daily website.