Putting equity into action to transform healthcare
Author: Toyin Ajayi, M.D., CEO and Co-Founder, Cityblock Health
The following is from Cityblock’s 2023 Equity in Action Report.
When we founded Cityblock just over five years ago, we were motivated by a radical ambition: to demonstrate that it is not only possible, but critical, to transform outcomes for marginalized populations by delivering dignified, respectful, and high-value care to communities that the system has left behind. For so long, the narrative around healthcare for lower-income and historically marginalized populations — people of color, folks with complex physical and behavioral health needs, individuals living in poverty, those living with disabilities and experiencing chronic illness — has implicitly and explicitly acknowledged that innovation, responsiveness and a high-quality experience would be reserved for the wealthy and the privileged. As a result, venture and other disruptive sources of capital were largely focused on finding ways to enhance care for those with privilege and access, almost entirely ignoring the opportunity for impact that could be achieved by serving lower-income individuals struggling to have their daily needs met. Our mission at Cityblock was born out of a fundamental belief that we can and must do better. Individuals and communities that suffer the most from the confluence of political, social, and institutional barriers to health deserve to be at the center of innovation designed to improve outcomes. By building a company that focused on Medicaid and dual-eligible beneficiaries, we sought to place them at the forefront, and to dedicate our collective resources, talents and energy to solving some of the most challenging problems facing our society.
Over the past five years, we’ve had the privilege to observe and to shape what has been a profound shift in the way that healthcare innovators, investors and practitioners think about serving marginalized populations. Unlike when we founded Cityblock, today, health equity and social drivers of health are commonplace topics for discussion across the healthcare ecosystem. Today, we are no longer a rarity; instead, we are a part of a movement that is emerging, of companies seeking to transform care for populations and needs that have been historically underserved. This evolution has been dramatic in its swiftness, and we are so proud of the role that we have played in catalyzing a much-needed shift.
In this report, we share some of what we’ve learned and achieved over the past five years of building for Medicaid and dual-eligible beneficiaries. Key amongst these learnings has been the importance of building and sustaining a truly diverse, inclusive and engaged workforce: one that reflects the demographics and lived experiences of our members, and in which our values and principles of care are manifested on a daily basis. Building a company that is representative of all the richness and diversity of the communities we serve, steeped in a deep understanding of historical and contemporary social injustices, and earnestly committed to anti-racism, has been a profound and rewarding undertaking. This is an active process of learning and iterating; the work will never be completely done, just as the work of dismantling injustice throughout our society will forever continue.
This work: the privilege and responsibility of serving those who need and deserve respectful, dignified and high-value care, is our calling. We are proud of the journey we’ve taken to get here, and excited for the path ahead.