As healthcare is projected to account for a third of new employment in the next decade, we have the opportunity to build health into our society with new models of care and access; address the social determinants of health head-on; and revolutionize chronic disease and mental health.
Accomplishing all of this, however, calls for inclusion of varied viewpoints and lived experiences in problem solving and decision-making. This is how Onboard Health views sustainable health innovation — through the inclusion of change-makers from historically underrepresented backgrounds.
Onboard Health’s The Sustainable Future blog is dedicated to giving a voice to these talented individuals hard at work creating lasting change in our society. This post, featuring Ivelyse Andino, is the third of a Q&A series — “How I’m Building” — highlighting members of the diverse Onboard Health community.
Tell us about why you created Radical Health.
I saw the lack of representation in medicine, particularly for Black, Brown, Indigenous, and immigrant folks.
Growing up in the Bronx, I always wanted to be a doctor. My mother worked in the health insurance field, so I got to see that side of the industry first hand. This also meant that I saw the lack of representation in medicine, particularly for Black, Brown, Indigenous, and immigrant folks.
This need for visibility drove me to have conversations around my kitchen table about these inequitable systems, which eventually grew into the foundation of Radical Health.
Since starting the journey to build the company, how have you seen the narrative of health equity change over the years?
One of the bigger shifts is that we’re starting to discuss health equity at large. For too long, it wasn’t in the mainstream conversation. I think the pandemic and recent social justice movements, have really shown a light on what is needed to make healthcare more accessible to the communities that have been historically silenced and underserved. We’re not there yet, but folks are wanting to learn more about the steps needed to create a more equitable healthcare system.
What are some bright spots that you’ve seen in your work in the last year around health equity?
The brightest moments always come from community, particularly getting to experience those times when people feel truly seen for the first time.
We bring people together in our Radical Health Circles, which are based on the Indigenous practices of community gathering and support. Now, with advances in technology, we have the opportunity to offer this support to a wider audience. When used intentionally, combining healthcare and technology has the potential to empower folks through every step of their medical journey — not just in between doctor’s visits.
What is one key takeaway for healthcare leaders today to do actual impactful work in this space?
Leaders need to understand the historical and cultural context for why certain communities may not trust the current system. I speak a lot about what I call healthcare fluency.
We often hear the term literacy thrown around, when discussing finances or languages — but literacy is just the starting point. We also have to take scientific knowledge, social perception, and cultural confidence into consideration.
The truth is, when it comes to the language of healthcare, very few people are completely fluent — including doctors. True fluency means understanding all four areas. Radical Health is the only organization taking a comprehensive approach to Healthcare Fluency, and one of our goals is educating leaders on how a person’s experiences shape their trust in the system.
What do you hope to see happen in this space in the next part of this year?
We have the opportunity to reimagine the system, in a truly equitable way. When it comes to healthcare fluency, we’re working to engage and equip underserved communities, to then feel empowered when navigating the system.
On the other side, working directly with medical leaders and staff to gain a deeper understanding of the social and cultural implications that the global majority carry with them into every appointment. Add human-centered tech to the mix, and we’re able to reimagine the healthcare system to reach the historically underserved communities across the country.
Ivelyse Andino is an Afro-Latina health equity innovator born and raised in The Bronx. She is the founder and CEO of Radical Health and a Commissioner on the New York City Commission on Gender Equity. Ivelyse enjoyed a fledgling career in health tech, pioneering some of its first digital health solutions, including bringing the first mobile app prescribing platform to market and working with global clients such as National Health Service (NHS London) and Kaiser Permanente.
While she routinely trained oncologists on new drugs, she found herself unprepared when her mother was diagnosed with cancer. This forced her to directly and intimately confront the systemic healthcare disparities she knew that existed. In founding Radical Health — the first Latina-owned and operated Benefit Corp in NYC — she has sought to combine her expertise in healthcare and her passion as a community organizer.
Coming from an historically marginalized community herself, it was important for Ivelyse to initially build Radical Health by bringing together her neighbors around her kitchen table and hearing first-hand from voices — including the undocumented, women of color, elderly, young people, and LGBTQ — who are otherwise (figuratively and) literally never given a seat at the table to have a say in their own healthcare destiny.
Through Radical Health, Ivelyse is committed to the task of transforming healthcare by facilitating health literacy and self-advocacy, as well as forging a relationship between meaningful face-to-face conversations with cutting-edge technology.
Find Radical Health on Twitter @weareradhealth