As the COVID-19 pandemic began to unfold early last year, no one could have predicted what was to come. Since then, we’ve seen incredible scientific progress made quickly, new partnerships and collaborations formed and have adjusted to new ways of working. However, the pandemic also shined a glaring, and much needed, spotlight on the health disparities under-resourced communities are faced with daily, including the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on communities of color.
National Minority Health Month and Celebrate Diversity Month are both recognized in the U.S. in April, and we see this as opportunity for continued conversation and reflection on how we can work better together to advance diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) in our organization, across our industry and in the communities we serve.
In the U.S., we understand the role we can play in building trust – with our employees, our customers, and the communities we serve. In a recent Wall Street Journal article, Ramona Sequeira, president of our U.S. Business Unit and Global Portfolio Commercialization, and Javier Barrientos, head of U.S. Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, spoke about Takeda’s approach to health equity and DE&I.
Ramona shares in the article, “The decisions we make every day, the way we behave, and the transparency with which we conduct our business affect the relationships we have with our employees, customers, patients and partners. It takes a long time to earn trust, and it can be lost very quickly. We take the long view, thinking about the impact of our actions on our patients and on our ability to build trust with stakeholders, enhance our reputation, and create a sustainable business. Advancing DE&I is a critical part of that.”
Separately, bringing on new leadership like Javier who is dedicated to developing, implementing and measuring our U.S. DE&I strategy, has also been part of our efforts to make meaningful progress in DE&I.
As part of our efforts, we’ve created a DE&I Council to look at the different parts of our business and assess how we can integrate diversity, equity and inclusion across our business. Recently we held our first-ever internal Global DE&I Week for employees. Featuring sessions hosted by members of Takeda’s leadership, a series of speaker events and fireside chats helped to spark important dialogue about DE&I and what each individual can do to drive positive, actionable change. Javier said, “While there is much work to be done, diversity, equity and inclusion are non-negotiables for us. Global DE&I Week marks an important step in our long-term approach to taking deliberate and purposeful action to have open, honest and transparent conversations and learn from one another. As a global company we have a shared goal of creating a diverse and inclusive organization where people can thrive, grow, and realize their own potential while enabling Takeda’s purpose.”
Recently, Lauren Powell joined Takeda as vice president of U.S. Health Equity and Community Wellness, furthering our commitment to promoting health equity. In a recent podcast hosted by the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, Lauren shared the importance of and need for the pharmaceutical industry to work hand-in-hand with public health departments to better engage under-resourced communities.
“Dismantling the roots of oppression that keep people and communities from wellness, is a core passion and mission of mine. As we work to create a blueprint that will drive real change we’re taking steps along the way that will make meaningful impact, for example, in areas like reducing gaps in access to life-saving medications and improving representation in clinical trials,” said Lauren.
As we think about the health care system of the future, tackling health inequity is a critical, industry-wide priority. This month, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) in partnership with the country’s leading biopharmaceutical companies, put into effect its first ever set of principles on clinical trial diversity. Through these principles, our industry is working together to identify and address the systemic issues and mistrust that deter mainly Black and Brown communities from participating in clinical trials, so that in the future, those who want to participate, can.
We acknowledge that there is still much work to do, but we are working hard to build trust as the first step toward building better health equity. Diversity Month and National Minority Health Month are opportunities for us to discuss, learn and take actions that will contribute to creating a more diverse, equitable and inclusive society.