Stanford Medicine leaders on using population health, precision health to enhance health equity | News Center

Stanford Medicine leaders on using population health, precision health to enhance health equity | News Center

Precision health can support research and patient care in many ways and in a variety of fields, Bondy said. On the research side, Bondy and her colleagues at Stanford’s Center for Population Health Sciences apply precision health to advance health equity.

 At Stanford Precision Health for Ethnic and Racial Equity, research projects using technology and data to close the gap in health disparities, including ones that use molecular data to prevent and treat excess weight gain and diabetes risk among Hispanic children, are already in motion, Minor said. He added that telehealth, which has been critical during the COVID-19 pandemic, is a potent approach for boosting health equity, as it creates more opportunities to access care.

COVID-19 as a case in point

Past studies and analyses have demonstrated that social factors, such as a family’s income or education level, and environmental factors, such as living conditions or air pollution, account for roughly 70{b5d304c96e94113bdfc523ff4218a1efff4746200bdb9eeb3214a56a1302f2e4} of what determines health and well-being. These underlying social and environmental drivers of health have become even more evident during the COVID-19 pandemic, Minor said. Across the United States, Black and Hispanic people have suffered disproportionately higher rates of hospitalization and death from the disease compared with white people. But the pandemic has created an opportunity for precision and population health to advance health equity more broadly, particularly in developing countries, Minor and Bondy said.

“New, innovative and highly effective approaches to designing, manufacturing and distributing vaccines have yielded two RNA-based vaccines now in use around the world,” Minor said. “And there are other advances in vaccine technology that are coming on the heels of the RNA advances.”

Over the past 10-15 years, vaccinology has progressed more slowly than other therapeutics have, but advances spurred by COVID-19 will almost certainly open new doors for vaccines targeting infectious diseases still rampant in the developing world, Minor said. “I think the next decade could see tremendous progress in health equity and care as a consequence of the accelerant effect of COVID-19,” he said.

In the closing moments of the discussion, Bondy and Minor reflected on why Stanford Medicine is uniquely suited to explore new directions in health equity and harness the potential of precision health to enhance population health.

“Our ability to innovate and bring those innovations into a clinical care environment is, I think, unparalleled here at Stanford, and that will continue to grow as we build both our discovery-based enterprise and our health care delivery enterprise,” Minor said. “But it really does come down to our people — people with an entrepreneurial spirit, people who don’t accept the status quo and want to go further to have real impact.”