Cross-section of leaders discuss health disparities in Philadelphia

    A series of community summits are helping leaders in the public health, business, and non-profit sectors work together to overcome systemic health inequalities.

    The first summit took place in Philadelphia Monday sponsored by pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline and The Atlantic.

    Dierdre Connelly, president of North American pharmaceuticals at the drug company, said though the region has a high concentration of universities and hospitals, leading indicators remind us we’re not that healthy.

    “Philadelphia is home to great institutions in learning, medicine and health care, and still 60 percent or greater of our adults are overweight,” Connelly said. “Smoking is an issue for us and a major cause of death in Philadelphia. So while we have brought so much, in terms of knowledge and tools and resources, we still have opportunities to do better.”

    Conversations at the working summit tended toward discussing the social determinants of health — how leaders need to address disparities in education, safety, and socio-economic status as a part of addressing health concerns.

    Calvin Bland, director of the New Jersey Health Initiatives program at Rutgers-Camden, reminded folks assembled how much of health is tied to the rest of our lives.

    “You can’t exercise personal responsibility if you aren’t eating well, if you haven’t been properly educated, or if you’re not warm at night,” Bland said. “In order to have true ‘personal responsibility’ we need to in fact ensure that people have opportunity.”

    The working summit was followed by a larger town hall meeting, headlined by Bill Cosby. Two other similar summits will be held around the country.

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