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The event will bring together key health leaders to tackle the issue of health equity challenges in precision health
The Texas A&M University Health Science Center (Texas A&M Health) is taking the lead in bringing together key stakeholders in a series of summits to discuss health equity in relation to precision health. The series, which is co-hosted with HealthTech Austin and sponsored by Genentech, will hold its next virtual summit Wednesday, March 1, from 9–10:30 a.m. CST.
The March 1 summit builds on the conversations from the initial gathering in October 2022. A summary of the key issues identified during the first summit was published Feb. 15 in Frontiers in Public Health. The paper, “Health equity innovation in precision medicine: Current and future directions,” was written by a group of coauthors that included Regents and Distinguished Professor Marcia Ory, PhD, MPH, from the Texas A&M University School of Public Health, Rick Silva, PhD, from Texas A&M Health, and Kenneth Ramos, MD, executive director of the Texas A&M Health Institute of Biosciences and Technology.
This series of Health Equity Innovation summits is exploring ways to remove barriers so that Texas’ underrepresented populations can benefit from precision health, which provides individualized solutions to health issues. The summits include a variety of stakeholders in the health care arena, including health care providers, technology leaders, academicians, community leaders, and federal, state and local policymakers.
The summits provide forums for sharing key information, such as critical features of an idealized clinicogenomic registry to engage underrepresented populations using innovative technology. “It is especially important for academics to work closely with industry partners to create an idealized clinicogenomic registry that will serve as a testing ground for promoting real-world data and real-world evidence that can make a difference for population health,” Silva said.
The summits build upon federal data showing the lack of representation in health care trials that inform precision health. White participants are in most cases overwhelmingly the primary participants in Food and Drug Administration (FDA) drug trials for critical health issues such as cardiovascular disease, endocrinology and metabolism, oncology and hematology, infectious diseases, neurology, gynecology, dermatology, pulmonology and rheumatology, gastroenterology, psychology, and anesthesia and analgesia.
And while precision medicine is expanding into the public health arena, genomic studies still lack diversity. Currently, 78 percent of individuals of European descent are involved in these studies, as compared to 4 percent of the U.S. non-European, non-Asian population, even though this latter group makes up more than one-third of the U.S. population.
“The focus on health equity has become increasingly important as new technologies make it possible to tailor prevention and treatment,” said Ory, who serves as the summit chair. “These strategies need to go beyond traditional care and include all demographic groups to enhance health for all.”
These inequities affect the interpretation of genetic variants as well as the polygenetic risk scores for diseases. To mitigate these omissions, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has launched the All of Us Research Program to gather longitudinal data from at least one million people in the United States to accelerate research and improve health.
The initial summit, held in October 2022, focused on the intersection of health equity, genomics and precision health. NIH Director of Health Equity Martin Mendoza served as the keynote speaker, where he addressed the importance of increasing diversity and equity in biomedical research and the All of US Research Program.
The All of US program also records individual differences in lifestyle, socioeconomics, environment and biology. This information will be used in datasets to inform precision health, which will provide individualized prevention, treatment and care plans tailored for each person. However, these datasets currently do not reflect the state’s diversity. “Underrepresented people in genomic databases will be underrepresented in the AI models,” Silva said. “Conversely AI can be an equalizing force in health if the models have the genetic, social and environmental data underlying disparities and inequities.”
This more-inclusive approach is especially important in a state like Texas with rapidly shifting population demographics. “How can we possibly expect to tackle the disparities that exist in these underserved communities with the medical breakthroughs that come from research if they don’t take into account these populations and their unique biological, genetic and social factors?” Mendoza said.
That approach could also translate into significant financial savings. A 2019 study from the Episcopal Health Foundation in Texas reported that if the state takes an equity approach, the resultant savings could reach $4.6 billion annually.
The March 1 virtual seminar will continue to build on the previous gathering and focus on identifying and brainstorming how to remove barriers to health equity. “Our particular emphasis for this virtual summit will be on how pharma/tech companies view addressing health equity issues and how their work can help reduce health disparities and improve public health,” Ory said. “We welcome others to share what they are doing in this space and how we can redefine personalized medicine to be an equity facilitator rather than an equity barrier.”
Additionally, thought leaders will review highlights from the October session, continue discussions about precision health’s role in promoting health equity, and review national policy efforts and initiatives that are supporting this effort.
To view the agenda and speakers and to RSVP for the virtual link to join the March 1 summit, go to https://www.healthequityinnovation.org/march-2023/.
Media contact: Dee Dee Grays, email@example.com, 979.436.0611