Rep. Danny Davis and Dr. Gary Puckrein join a Baxter panel discussion on healthcare disparities.
As a global healthcare company focused on innovation, Baxter embraces the opportunity to help solve the world's greatest healthcare challenges. To that end, increasing access to healthcare for those in need is a topic that recently brought together several experts dedicated to addressing this challenge for a panel discussion at Baxter's headquarters in Deerfield, Illinois, United States.
U.S. Congressman Danny Davis (D-Ill.) and Gary Puckrein, PhD, president and CEO of the National Minority Quality Forum, joined Baxter's Valery Gallagher, director of state government affairs; Charles Cush, director of marketing for U.S. Renal; and Brian Goff, global franchise head for hemophilia, to discuss health care disparities in the United States. The panel, which was organized by Baxter's African American Leadership Council, discussed how health disparities continue to impact the country's racial and ethnic minorities, the rural and urban poor and other medically underserved populations. They also examined how the context for healthcare disparities is changing, as minorities begin to constitute a majority.
"By 2020, 40 percent of the U.S. population will be a minority, and 50 percent will be a minority by 2050," said Puckrein, whose Washington, DC-based not-for-profit research and education organization is dedicated to improving the quality of health care that is available for and provided to all populations. "White Americans, on the other hand, make up about 66 percent of the population today, yet their care absorbs 80 percent of health care spending."
The experts discussed the need for recruiting and retaining more minorities and other underrepresented groups into clinical trials and research, and for establishing health education programs for special populations.
"We've got a great system of healthcare in this country, but we don't have the system in place that really educates our people and helps them to take charge and take responsibility for their own health," Rep. Davis said. "Health is much more than just a matter of living long and being free of morbidity and mortality—it also has to do with quality of life."
For Baxter, that may mean taking steps, for example, to improve access to
end-stage renal disease treatments such as peritoneal dialysis (PD), a
self-administered therapy that can be managed by patients at home. Puckrein noted that currently, only a small minority of those with ESRD is on home dialysis.
Baxter offers several education and training programs to help make PD more accessible, and also works to make policymakers more aware of the role of PD therapy in patients' lives and the overall healthcare system, Gallagher said.
Panelists also discussed how Baxter is working to improve access to care for Hispanic patients with hemophilia though the use of bilingual health educators, as well as the company's efforts to better understand the development of inhibitors, an antibody produced by the body's immune system that makes factor replacement therapy—the main treatment for the disorder—ineffective or less effective in stopping bleeding.
"In hemophilia A, the African American population has, for reasons that are still unknown, twice the rate of inhibitor development than the Caucasian population," said Goff. "This is an emerging branch of research that Baxter is looking to be even more invested in moving forward."
It's all in an effort to make sure that the company strives to provide new products as well as training and education to meet the needs of current and future patients, explained Baxter's Heather Polk, senior marketing manager in the Medical Products business and community co-lead for Baxter's African American Leadership Council, who served as the panel's moderator.
She said, "As a healthcare company committed to saving and sustaining lives, it's so important that we understand our role in serving the unique needs of minority patients that can benefit from Baxter therapies."