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Novartis partners with 26 HBCUs to invest more than $37 million into healthcare equity

Black Americans have a shorter life expectancy, higher mortality rates from cancer, and higher infant mortality rates. A new pledge aims to change that.

Novartis partners with 26 HBCUs to invest more than $37 million into healthcare equity
[Source Photo: Andrea Hunter/Unsplash]
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Novartis is donating to a number of historically Black academic institutions to help solve inequalities in healthcare and education.

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The pharmaceutical company, along with Morehouse School of Medicine, Thurgood Marshall College Fund, Coursera, and the National Medical Association, are investing a total of $33.7 million in the effort. The organizations, along with 26 historically black colleges, universities (HBCUs), and medical schools, aim to alleviate some of the distrust surrounding healthcare in communities of color. Their pledge, released today, details a series of programs that the coterie of donors and educators will launch in an effort to make progress toward ending racially unequal healthcare, which they described as “endemic.”

The pledge cites research that points to how Black Americans have a shorter life expectancy, higher mortality rates from cancer, and infant mortality rates, compared to white Americans, according to the Health and Human Services Department’s Office of Minority Health.

The funds will be distributed over 10 years to start. The Novartis US Foundation plans to allocate $13.7 million of the money to three research centers at Morehouse School of Medicine, which will aim to set a standard for racially diverse clinical participants and clinical investigators. Novartis states that a lack of diversity in trials is a result of a participation “reluctance among minority patients,” which also extends to vaccine hesitancy.

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“Black and African American people endured education and health disparities in the United States long before the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Patrice Matchaba, president of the Novartis US foundation. “We are proud to . . . take direction from Black and African American community members and other minority groups on [these] programs.”

The remaining $20 million of the investment will go toward education efforts over a decade, such as scholarships and mentorships, to provide HBCU students with equitable training and opportunities to learn in the medical field.

“This is a first-of-its-kind collaboration and Morehouse School of Medicine is excited to work with Novartis and this coalition,” said Valerie Montgomery Rice, president and CEO of the Morehouse School of Medicine. “We know that real change starts here—when work is done to make a significant impact on representation and inclusion.”

About the author

Diana is an assistant editor for Fast Company's Work Life section. Previously, she was an editor at Vice and an editorial assistant at Entrepreneur

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