Q & A with Dr. Chris Reddick, Head of U.S. Health Equity at Takeda Pharmaceuticals

By Tamara Thomas - September 22, 2023

Urban Health Today had the opportunity to talk with Dr. Chris Reddick, the Head of U.S. Health Equity at Takeda Pharmaceuticals. In August 2023, Takeda, along with The National Urban League, a historic civil rights and urban advocacy organization, announced a new health equity initiative that seeks to address the obstacles that disproportionately hinder access to better health care for historically marginalized populations in the U.S.

Urban Health Today: Can you walk us through your work at Takeda, highlighting the key milestones in your advocacy for health equity?

Dr. Chris Reddick: I’ve spent over two decades working in the healthcare industry to advance health equity in the U.S. and in communities globally. Since joining Takeda in 2007, I’ve had the opportunity to work with a number of global stakeholders to advance Takeda’s vision and approach to Health Equity, Access to Medicines (AtM), Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DE&I), and Patient Centricity. One of the programs that I am most proud of leading during my tenure at Takeda has been establishing and growing our global network of community-based health equity partners around the world, especially in sub-Saharan Africa. By fostering knowledge exchange collaborations between Takeda subject-matter experts and our network of over 350 local health equity leaders (including researchers, clinicians, healthcare workers, community organizers, health equity experts, and patient advocates), Takeda has helped strengthen local healthcare systems in underserved communities and enhanced their capabilities to address health inequities and provide sustainable care to patients long-term.

Since 2012, I have also served as the Executive Sponsor of Takeda’s African American employee resource group, called the Black Leadership Council (BLC). The BLC has been instrumental in advancing our diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts internally, and has helped us connect with and support the communities we are working to partner with to reduce health inequities.

As the current Head of U.S. Health Equity, I’m focused on developing and executing Takeda’s health equity strategy in the U.S. to address health disparities and inequities in historically marginalized communities and ensure broader patient access to Takeda’s medicines. We’ve already made great strides in creating a more equitable healthcare environment across the U.S. – in the last year, we’ve announced three collaborations with key change-makers in the U.S. health equity space. We’ve partnered with:

  • Xavier University of Louisiana to build a Technical Research and Exchange center (called T-REX) that will focus on improving health outcomes for disadvantaged and marginalized populations.
  • Remote Area Medical to help expand their pop-up clinics throughout the U.S., delivering free, quality medical, dental, and vision care to underserved communities.
  • And the National Urban League, most recently, to deploy a community-based health workforce implementing customized health equity plans that address barriers to accessing timely diagnosis and treatments.

UHT: You’ve been with Takeda since 2007; how have you seen their approach to health equity evolve?

CR: As a global company that has been putting patients first for more than 240 years, Takeda is committed to helping create equitable health care for all.

Takeda’s approach to health equity has expanded and evolved significantly since the announcement and implementation of our global Access to Medicines (AtM) strategy in 2016.

Our AtM program is designed to build sustainable capacity, create innovative affordability programs, and collaborate with policymakers to drive meaningful change in low-and middle-income countries (LMICs)

In 2020, we continued to evolve our capacity and approach by establishing a global Center of Health Equity and Patient Affairs, a Diversity and Inclusion in Clinical Trials team within our R&D division, and a regional U.S. Health Equity team.

Establishing these groups represents a key milestone in Takeda’s journey towards embedding health equity principles and social determinants of health (SDOH) considerations into the way we develop our innovative medicines.

As we all know too well, health inequities result in higher rates of disease and poorer health outcomes among people in racial and ethnic groups when compared to their white counterparts. To help solve these deep-rooted disparities, Takeda established a center of excellence in 2020 – the Center for Health Equity and Patient Affairs (HEPA). The Center provides services, programs, and frameworks that help Takeda build sustainable, physical and intellectual infrastructures intended to address health inequities. We believe this approach can better equip us to deliver our innovative medicines and therapies to more people and communities that need them, when and how they need them.

The establishment of our U.S. Health Equity group expands our reach and ability to partner more closely with the diverse network of public and private health equity stakeholders at the national, state, and community levels in the U.S. to help advance the practice of health equity and achieve community-level impact.

UHT: What inspired you to focus on health equity and access to healthcare as your career path?

CR: As an African American growing up in an urban setting in Washington, D.C., I was exposed early on to the inequities that communities face, but also to the grit and determination of people like my parents and neighbors. I focused my academic endeavors and the early part of my professional career on medicine and science with the goal of helping the most people possible access quality healthcare and treatments. But it wasn’t until I started working with local community leaders, healthcare workers, and non-profits – first in Haiti following the earthquake of 2010 – that I saw how important being involved in the community is to creating meaningful, sustainable impact and change for people.

UHT: Can you talk about Takeda’s new partnership with the National Urban League? What are the key objectives?

CR: Takeda has partnered with the National Urban League to launch a transformative, community-based initiative focused on advancing health equity. Takeda is the first organization to fund the National Urban League’s health equity infrastructure aimed at addressing the pervasive disparities in healthcare. We’re very excited to collaborate to overcome the barriers that have disproportionately impacted historically marginalized populations.

At the heart of this joint initiative is the creation of a Health Equity Continuum of Service Structure – this will allow referrals for program participants across the National Urban League’s network to healthcare services and will increase accessibility within their local communities. By leveraging the National Urban League’s community presence, this structure will help bridge the gap between underserved communities and healthcare resources to create a more seamless pathway to access essential health care.

We’re also supporting the National Urban League in developing health equity educational webinars and workshops focused on building local capacity around the SDOH and the barriers to accessing timely diagnosis and treatments in communities. Looking ahead to the long-term efforts under this partnership, we’ll engage key stakeholders to shape local and national policy, institutional commitments, and structural investments in communities to achieve health equity holistically.

UHT: How do you see this collaboration with the National Urban League enhancing Takeda’s Health Equity Strategy in the U.S.?

CR: Working alongside trusted leaders in the community and community-based organizations is vital to our health equity strategy in the U.S. To implement thoughtful solutions that create lasting change, we’re prioritizing the complex needs of historically marginalized people. By working in lockstep with trusted community-serving organizations that are closest to the nuanced challenges, we can build a future where access to quality healthcare is no longer a privilege but a fundamental right for every individual, regardless of their background or circumstances.

UHT: What led to the decision to partner with the National Urban League specifically, and how did the partnership come to fruition?

CR: The National Urban League stood out as an obvious partner – their unique approach to health inequities is rooted in their decades-long commitment to simultaneously addressing multiple SDOH for the communities they serve. They have long recognized that the issues that our communities have faced are multi-faceted and complex. That’s why we’ve partnered with the National Urban League, an organization that looks to the root of inequities and prioritizes community-led solutions to deliver care that reflects local needs and creates a healthier future, which aligns with Takeda’s vision for achieving equitable healthcare.

UHT: What metrics or indicators will you be using to measure the success of this partnership?

CR: As with any meaningful, strategic partnership, this work, and the impact that it will have will take time. While quantitative measures will offer insight into the reach of the National Urban League’s Health Equity Continuum of Service Structure and improve access to timely diagnosis and treatment, we remain focused on creating long-term, sustainable change by engaging key stakeholders to shape local and national policy, institutional commitments and structural investments to achieve health equity holistically.

UHT: Are there plans to extend this model of partnership to other community organizations or perhaps internationally?

CR: We have already begun expanding our outreach to other national, state, and local community-focused organizations, including faith-based organizations that play a key role in addressing social determinants of health in many underserved communities. We hope to partner with many other trusted, reputable, and high-impact health equity-focused organizations in the future. This is just the beginning of our journey in improving health equity through long-term, multi-pronged, cross-sector partnerships. We hope to implement the learnings gained during this relationship to authentically inform efforts moving forward and how we show up in communities.

UHT: What advice do you have for community leaders who want to partner with organizations like Takeda to advance health equity?

CR: Many of the health equity stakeholders I talk to are surprised when I tell them about how we have established dedicated health equity roles like mine at Takeda, and how we are working to embed health equity across our organization and operations. These roles are more traditional in the academic, government, and non-profit spaces.

Solving the complex challenges and health inequities that communities face requires a ‘megacommunity’ approach—no one entity can do this alone, and everyone must do their part.

Companies like Takeda can be catalytic. We can help to convene, connect, and serve as conduits between health equity stakeholders from across sectors. We can also play a key role in problem-solving partnerships through knowledge sharing and capacity building, leading to sustainable community impact.

More importantly, this requires trust, built over time, and centered on putting community leaders in the driver’s seat, making decisions based on local needs and priorities, and co-creating solutions that empower communities to meet their own immediate needs while also developing solutions that solve existing inequities and prevent future ones over the long term.

UHT: Thanks so much for speaking with us about this important work, Dr. Reddick.

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