Breaking Down Barriers, Advancing Health Equity
Waking up each day with good health is something people no longer take for granted. But, the reality is, there are vast disparities in who has good health, and who doesn’t.
These health disparities are often driven by interconnected social and economic issues like poverty, structural racism, and access to healthcare, education and opportunity. The challenges are immense, and the numbers are startling. There's a seven-year difference in life expectancy between different racial and ethnic groups. Low-income Americans are five times more likely to report poorer health, and have higher rates of physical limitation, heart disease, diabetes, stroke and other chronic conditions. These disparities are not new but they have been amplified by the COVID-19 pandemic, as communities of color and low-income Americans face greater risks from the virus.
At Abbott, we're focused on advancing health equity through our business and in partnership with others. To deliver results, we've laid out long-term targets for our business as part of our 2030 Sustainability Plan, and we've made equitable care a key principle for our community partnerships.
Advancing innovation, access and affordability
Our purpose is to help people live fully – and we do that by committing day in and day out to creating new technologies that improve people’s lives. Pursuing this purpose means we need to create products that are not just effective, but are affordable and accessible to more people who need them. That's why we focus on intentionally designing these elements into the core of how we create new products to improve the health of more people, in more places than ever before.
This approach already has allowed us to make an important impact in the fight against COVID-19, transform the management of diabetes, and extend the reach of heart tech to newborns in need. To learn more, see our story, Innovating for Access Now and in the Future.
Addressing racial health disparities
An important part of our work to advance health equity are targeted efforts to address health disparities and advance care for diseases that have an outsized impact on communities of color. That's why we work to remove barriers to access through innovative partnerships and programs:
Health Equity Now for diabetes: Abbott was the first to sign on as anchor sponsor of the American Diabetes Association’s (ADA) Health Equity Now platform. Our $5 million, three-year commitment aims to remove barriers to care and provide greater access to the latest medical technologies and health resources for diabetes populations, including communities of color. Data show that compared to white adults, the risk of being diagnosed with diabetes is higher among Black Americans (77%), Latinos (66%), and Asian Americans (18%). Abbott’s Jared Watkin recently joined together with ADA CEO Tracey D. Brown to share perspective on the importance of this new work.
Diversity in clinical trials: Different racial and ethnic groups have long been underrepresented in clinical trials, even though it's well-known that some groups of patients may respond differently to medical therapies, and that some diseases disproportionately affect underrepresented groups. The need is clear: trials should include a more diverse population. At Abbott, we're committed to appropriate gender, racial and ethnic representation in clinical trials, with targeted action in our businesses to help deliver progress. To find out more, see our story Committing to Our Clinical Trial Communities.
Easterseals' Black Child Fund: The Abbott Fund recently became the first sponsor of Easterseals’ Black Child Fund, a new effort to expand existing programming and develop new programs to address health disparities, ensuring timely diagnosis and treatment for Black children with autism and other disabilities. Research from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that Black children with autism are less likely to be identified at an early age, and often wait on average more than three years before getting a formal diagnosis.
Heart health in the Black community: According to the American Heart Association (AHA), the prevalence of high blood pressure for Black Americans in the U.S. is among the highest in the world. In partnership with the AHA and local community organizations, we are working to address hypertension and health inequity within a predominately Black community on Chicago’s South Side, including installing a blood pressure kiosk in the community and launching a program to equip those at greatest risk with knowledge and tools to safely monitor and manage their blood pressure from home. As part of this work, in response to COVID-19, we also provided seniors with healthy meals while supporting Black farmers.
Meeting community needs caused by the COVID-19 pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic has hit vulnerable communities especially hard. Building on our significant work to advance COVID-19 testing, Abbott and the Abbott Fund have provided more than $24 million in support globally to strengthen health systems and communities, including targeted work in the U.S. to advance health equity. Here's just a few examples:
Testing in hard-hit communities: Through a partnership with Direct Relief, the Abbott Fund has provided significant funding to 25 U.S. health centers that provide healthcare services in diverse, underserved communities. These grants continue to help community clinics find locally appropriate and relevant ways to expand access to COVID-19 testing, triage and treatment and provide clinical education in the communities they serve.
COVID care for communities of color: Abbott and the Abbott Fund are working with the University of Minnesota Community-University Health Care Center (CUHCC) in the Twin Cities and the Alive Church Network and Rush University Hospital in Chicago, providing grants to advance understanding of the impact of systemic racism and other structural inequities on the health of people in communities of color, and provide urgently needed support to build capacity at community organizations and expand access to COVID-19 testing, treatment and education, including to people affected by diabetes and heart disease.
Helping Navajo Nation: We’re working with Partners In Health and their partner organization Community Outreach and Patient Empowerment to help in the Navajo Nation, one of the areas hardest hit by the pandemic. We're providing funding to advance COVID-19 testing and contact tracing, and also donating our diagnostic testing and nutrition products to help expand critical services.
Removing barriers to health
Abbott also is working to address the social determinants of health, the interconnected factors in our everyday lives – including healthcare, education, the environment, structural racism, economic opportunity and others – that impact our health and drive health disparities. Abbott and the Abbott Fund have partnerships that address these challenges through community-driven efforts:
Future Well Communities is a program targeting diabetes and other health disparities in communities by addressing the social and economic barriers to good health. This multi-year Abbott Fund program was launched in 2019 in Stockton, Calif., which was recently named the most diverse large city in America. We're working with local government, leading institutions and community groups to increase access to health, education, healthy food and economic opportunity.
Future Well Kids: Delivered by Abbott employee volunteers in countries around the world, our Future Well Kids program encourages young people across 15 underserved communities in the U.S. to take charge of their own health today by developing habits that will help them maintain good health throughout their lives, through fun and interactive curriculum.
Addressing hunger: For more than 20 years, Abbott has partnered with Feeding America® to help meet critical community needs across the country. We've donated more than $100 million in nutritional products, including longtime support for the Feeding America BackPack Program, which provides children and families with nutritious and easy-to-prepare food they need to get enough to eat on the weekends. Abbott donated 1.5 million feedings of Similac infant formula to Feeding America member food banks in eight cities across the nation experiencing significant need due to COVID-19. We also work together to help communities build resilience and prepare for hurricane season, and we step up when disaster strikes.
These are just some examples of our work to advance health equity, specific to the U.S. We also have longstanding, significant work in other countries around the world – you can find out more and see examples at Abbott.com/Sustainability, and also on the Social Impact section of our site.