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The HEAL-R Symposium highlighted the advancement of health equity through learning health systems (LHS) research.

2023 HEAL-R Symposium: From Analysis to Action

a room full of people sitting at tables while a speaker stands at the podium on the far side of the room

We appreciate everyone who was able to attend our first Health Equity Symposium at the NCAA Conference Center on November 9th and 10th. What an incredible day filled with energizing and important conversations and presentations.

The symposium highlighted the advancement of health equity through learning health systems (LHS) research, and the event had 325 registrants, including attendees from outside community organizations and advocacy groups.

During the conference, we familiarized ourselves with pressing health inequities on the local and national scale, as well as celebrate the important work that IU Health’s Office of Health Equity Research and Engagement (HERE) has engaged in throughout the past two years, including the implementation of the Health Quality Index, collection of REaL Data, creation of HEAL-R, and many other initiatives within the community, including iHEART, Barbershop 2.0, and CHECK-IT.

The event commenced on Thursday, November 9th with opening remarks from Dennis Murphy, President and CEO of IU Health, along with Dr. Brownsyne Tucker Edmonds, Chief Health Equity Officer and Associate Dean for Health Equity Research, who underscored the idea that health equity means the “opportunity to be as healthy as possible,” noting that we should keep in mind “one size does not fit all.” These remarks were followed by a plenary session on the learning health system and principles of health equity research, presented by Dr. Peter J. Embí, Professor and Chair of the Department of Biomedical Informatics at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Dr. Embí discussed the possibilities of learning health systems, as well as the potential risks and limitations of AI-driven healthcare, ultimately calling for our collective “algorithmovigilance.”

Dr. Consuelo Wilkins presents conference keynote address in NCAA Ballroom.

In the afternoon, there were thought-provoking breakout sessions on topics such as outcomes-oriented LHS research, enhancing access and patient experience through LHS, and IUSM’s initiatives to elevate equity. These sessions were followed by a powerful keynote presentation by Dr. Consuelo H. Wilkins, the Senior Vice President and Senior Associate Dean for Health Equity and Inclusive Excellence at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Dr. Wilkins illustrated the ways in which health inequities are structural and systemic, citing the “historic and ongoing roles” that science and medicine play in maintaining and perpetuating these systems. In order to achieve goals of equity in healthcare, Dr. Wilkins argued for the importance of embedding health equity into our medical research and practice. 

The day concluded with a panel of representatives from local organizations discussing how to build community engagement and partnerships for health equity research, including those from the iHEART Collaborative, Path4YOU, the Diabetes Impact Project (DIP-IN), the Center for Health Equity and Innovation (CHEqI), and All IN for Health. Attendees were also invited to attend a lively networking and poster session, ensuing the closing remarks by HEAL-R Executive Director, Dr. Erika Cheng.

six panelists of diverse backgrounds sit at a long table in the front of a conference room

On Friday, November 10th, Dr. Tatiana Faroud, Executive Associate Dean for Research Affairs at IUSM, began day by welcoming the morning plenary speaker, Dr. Monica Peek, Ellen H. Block Professor for Health Justice in the Department of Medicine at the University of Chicago. Dr. Peek spoke on issues related to social determinants of health (SDOHs) and health equity’s impact. She asked the audience to deeply consider what they can do to contribute to health equity in their work. The rest of the day was filled with engaging breakout sessions, revolving around themes of data and improving healthcare, ethical challenges in LHS research, community engagement, advancing health equity through data-driven research, and health equity in education.

The conference concluded with a moderated lunch session on the power of collaboration in community engagement and accountability. Robert Shegog, President and CEO of the Indianapolis Recorder Media Group, facilitated the discussion amongst panelists: IU Health’s Dr. Brownsyne Tucker Edmonds; Dr. Mary Alice Trent, Director of DEI Education and Learning at Community Health; Angela Smith Jones, VP of Diversity and Inclusion at the Health and Hospital Corporation of Marion County; Dr. Mercy Obeime, Physician at Franciscan Health; and Chrystal Ratcliffe, President of the Greater Indianapolis NAACP. Dr. Mary Alice Trent left the attendees with this to reflect on: “Data tells a story. But whose story? These stories frame our patients in different ways. They are minds, bodies, and souls.”

Panelists wrapped up the session by encouraging attendees to invite others into the conversation around advancing health equity and share key ideas from the conference with colleagues. Attendees were also reminded that they can help promote health in Indiana by signing up to be a part of the research volunteer network for All IN for Health. We are delighted to report that conference participants felt that they gained valuable insights that they will be able to apply to their work and research and would be interested in attending future conferences hosted by HEAL-R. One attendee shared, “Besides learning about health equity, I most enjoyed hearing about the ways in which research projects are engaging with specific neighborhoods in Indiana.”

We look forward to further supporting this important effort by taking concrete steps to reduce health inequities through community partnerships and programming and continuing the dialogue around the ways in which learning health systems research can advance equity goals.

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HEAL-R Collaborative

The Health Equity Advancing through Learning health systems Research (HEAL-R) Collaborative works to bring equity research to health care delivery.

HEAL-R is a partnership between IU School of Medicine, IU Health’s Office of Health Equity Research and Engagement, the Indiana Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute, the Regenstrief Institute and the Irsay Institute at Indiana University Bloomington.

The views expressed in this content represent the perspective and opinions of the author and may or may not represent the position of Indiana University School of Medicine.