In Technical.ly’s first part of this series, we asked experts what policies need to change for communities to attain health equity, aka their “full health potential” regardless of their social circumstances, per the CDC. But can entrepreneurship be used as a means to reaching greater health equity, too?
Oftentimes it is the people closest to problems that best understand the solutions, which is why so many entrepreneurs have firsthand experience with the challenges their startups seek to address. For the issue of health equity, in particular, Philadelphia can count a slew of founders, including Soremekun, Envision2bWell President and CEO Tammy Williams and Patient Sortal founder Kenny Eck, who are using technology to address health needs for underserved communities. Funders, too, are taking note of the issue: Both University City Science Center and Ben Franklin Technology Partners have recently announced initiatives to invest in equity-minded health concepts.
Growing up in southern Louisiana, Science Center’s Heath Naquin experienced poverty and learned firsthand of the effects it can have on a community.
“The biggest misconception we see is what health equity means,” he said. “What people really mean is access to care. Sometimes what they mean is making sure everybody has the same standard [of care].”
In his role as VP of government and capital engagement, Naquin helps entrepreneurs find capital for their work. He and his colleagues are establishing a series of investment funds specifically for what they call “diverse founders” in the health equity space.
He said he frequently hears impressive pitches for tech projects designed to ameliorate health equity, but within them, access is often overlooked. Ideas for new apps, for instance, may sound appealing, but in communities where smartphone usage may be low, those ideas can fail to reach people who most need their help.
“The one key thing institutions can do [is] don’t assume you know what communities’ [needs] are,” he said. “Open your ears and listen. Go to where problems are. Don’t parachute in. Get your hands dirty and develop a solution that actually matters.”