Adam Bradford, CEO of AdamStart, highlights the importance of including young BAME health tech innovators in the battle against COVID-19
In the fight against COVID-19, the health tech sector has prioritised transforming global healthcare solutions. From start-ups and tech companies to large-scale government programmes, the industry has pulled together to provide healthcare to those most vulnerable.
However, the pandemic has highlighted how the health inequalities experienced by BAME people demand greater attention. The disproportionately high number of BAME people who have died from coronavirus demonstrates the urgent need to reduce rife health inequalities. Innovation, treatment and policy in the healthcare sector must work to address this – and real change hinges on the inclusion of BAME people in developing solutions that tangibly support and benefit their communities.
Balancing innovation with inclusion
To serve our population in its entirety, we must address inclusivity in the sector. By championing diverse entrepreneurs from a broad range of backgrounds, we can develop effective solutions for all people.
I’m not alone in this line of thinking. In March this year during her opening keynote address at the Digital Health Rewired 2020 Leadership Summit, TechUK president Jacqueline de Rojas highlighted how diversity in tech will underpin the future of the UK’s NHS.
In June 2020, the NHS joined by NHS England’s Chair, David Prior, hosted a meeting with 240 BAME staff network and Equality, Diversity and Inclusion leads, system leaders and advocates. The session was created to discuss how to enable the role of BAME network representatives as powerful vehicles for change in the NHS and across the healthcare system more widely.
Concrete solutions can bridge the healthcare gaps and mobilise BAME innovators to initiate real change with wide-reaching impact. These include BAME-focused initiatives, such as the pledge for ‘Diversity and Innovation – a celebration of BAME innovators and our pledges to do more’ led by the Academic Health Science Network last year. With this pledge, industry leaders recognise their role in championing and developing diversity within the NHS innovation pipeline.
Pathways into healthcare and technology sectors need to become even more accessible for young BAME innovators along with opportunities to develop their skill-sets. Organisations can partner with initiatives, such as The Stepping Up program, which aims to drive sustainable inclusion within the NHS by combating the social, psychological and organisational barriers restricting BAME colleagues and students from development and progression in the medical sector.
Another important program is The British Caribbean Doctors Network (BCDN), an outreach initiative launched to offer young people interested in a career in medicine access to role models, mentorship and events to nurture networking with organisations. By identifying and learning how to create a vibrant BAME innovator network, businesses can strengthen opportunities to attract talent into the field.
The network effect
Funding competitions and mentorship programmes can make a world of difference when fostering the next generation of entrepreneurs. Global entrepreneurial challenges that provide a platform for young innovators to learn how to scale their business propositions and bring them to market are vital to fostering the next generation of talent
Weekly Medic, a platform offering mobile medical and dental services to rural Ugandan communities, was launched by 23-year-old Patrick Ssremba eight months ago. Patrick was recently crowned winner of AdamStart, a global competition for young entrepreneurs developing solutions for the fight against COVID-19. While studying medicine, Patrick’s experience in ill-equipped medical facilities inspired him to create a mobile service that allowed him to visit patients at home.
At the height of the pandemic, Patrick transformed his business into a digital offering, ensuring those in his local community continued to receive the medical and dental support they needed, despite social distancing measures and lockdown restrictions.
Patrick is an example of one of the many talented BAME entrepreneurs who are fighting to combat COVID-19 worldwide. The pandemic has provided a vital launchpad for young innovators to nurture and develop inclusive solutions within the health tech space, and this is just the beginning.