From Pledge to Action: Translating Health Equity Principles into Everyday Decisions

Achieving zero health gaps requires dramatic shifts

We don’t often consider Davos a central player in reducing health disparities worldwide. While Davos is undoubtedly known for tackling the most significant issues that face the world, this is the first time the group sought to address the long-standing health inequities that disproportionately impacted marginalized and low-income populations. In 2023, that changed as the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting drew nearly 3,000 global industry leaders to Davos, Switzerland.

This year’s convening of the World Economic Forum’s Global Health Equity Network in Switzerland’s highest town saw the first tangible action taken by 40 of the world’s largest companies to do their part in eliminating health disparities. The Zero Health Gaps Pledge, signed by the CEOs of each participating company, outlines ten commitments these organizations have made to embed health equity in their core strategies, operations, and investments. This commitment marks a profound shift in how organizations operate and engage with their communities. We know it can be hard to know where to start on this transformative journey, so we break it down into five areas: leadership transformation, business process transformation, digital transformation, cultural transformation, and experience transformation. While a successful transformation requires success in all five areas, leadership and experience transformation are the cornerstones to achieving zero health gaps between and within communities.

silhouette of people on hill

Leadership Transformation

Integrating health equity into your organization’s core strategies requires a dramatic shift in the strategic direction. These shifts are widely considered one of the most demanding management challenges. They are so challenging that one estimate by McKinsey suggests that nearly 70% of these transformations fall short of achieving their full potential. So, how can your company transform its management to ensure it reaches its commitments in the Zero Health Gaps pledge? We suggest four things to consider:

Rest in the uncertainty

Many in management and leadership got there by always knowing what would happen next. Unfortunately, achieving zero health gaps is a journey, not a light switch. It has taken years to create the systematic injustices that created the current health gap. It will likely take a long time to right the ship and forge a new path. This time will be unpredictable, especially as you follow our next consideration.

Become a scientist

Leaders often stick to what they know best. Of course, we have all heard that we must be disruptive in our markets to compete. But research has suggested that disruption only sometimes comes about because we veer from a well-walked path. However, putting health and well-being at the center of decision-making requires entirely different thinking. It is only through experimentation that we learn this new way of operating.

Don't fear what everyone else fears

Nearly every transformation requires suffering through painful misalignment. The period between the “way we used to do things” and the “way we do things now” can be scary for everyone. Leaders must show that, while it can look scary from the outside, the organization is writing a better story for everyone. Leaders can’t fear what everyone else fears. They must be firmly grounded in the vision of achieving zero health gaps and thus understand that, even in painful moments, they are accomplishing something more remarkable.

Don't mask your authentic self

The current leadership research suggests that leaders often create a persona they believe is necessary for success. The same study also indicates that the mask we make erodes trust. Allowing health and well-being to drive strategic decisions necessitates trust from our colleagues, employees, and community. Our health and well-being are so central to our personhood that actions taken for (or against) it is met with suspicion. Thus, leaders must be authentic in how they act and communicate. Masks erode the confidence needed for the organization to be successful.

man standing on top of rock formation

Experience Transformation

Employees, customers, and communities all have experiences with your organization. Employees experience it through the benefits you provide, how you manage them, and how you measure them. Customers experience your organization through your products and services and how you market and engage with them. As global organizations, your communities are large and experience you through your engagement in the public forum and how you give back. While each person’s experience with your organization is unique and different based on their role, they all work together to shape your success.

Your organization will thrive in the market with positive employee, customer, and community experiences. A focus on health and well-being is the key to that positive experience. Employees are more productive when they are healthy, customers are willing to pay more for your products and services when they know you are concerned with their well-being, and communities trust organizations that have their health at the forefront of their decision-making. Transforming these experiences is not easy, so we suggest you start by asking:

Are the benefits you offer to employees improving their health and well-being?

Do you offer upskilling for employees at all levels?

How are you measuring and reporting health and well-being?

Are all your products and services accessible?

Do your pricing model and sales metrics support equitable access to your products and services?

Are you involved in your communities’ health improvement efforts?

Do you support community organizations that work to improve the health and well-being of your community?

Putting your pledge into action

Your organization has taken the crucial first step by signing the Zero Health Gaps Pledge. Your employees, customers, and communities will now want to know what you are doing to make the pledge more than words. You know doubt are wondering how this transformation will go. While we can’t predict the future, we can provide the expertise and support your organization needs to reach zero health gaps. We know transformation can be challenging and scary. We are here to walk alongside you and make your transformation a sustainable success story.

Are you ready to put your pledge into action?

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