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3 Outstanding and Inspiring Plenary Sessions from the Accelerating Health Equity Conference

Posted by: | Posted on: June 18, 2024

This year’s annual Accelerating Health Equity Conference was held in Kansas City, Missouri on May 7-9. This conference combines plenary sessions, breakout sessions, community field trips, vendor booths, and cocktail hours for socializing and networking.

This year’s conference was attended by over 1,000 like-minded individuals in, and adjacent to, the health care industry all working toward the same goal of bringing the highest level of widespread health equity to their communities. The CMS (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, www.cms.gov) defines health equity as “the attainment of the highest level of health for all people, where everyone has a fair and just opportunity to attain their optimal health regardless of race, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, socioeconomic status, geography, preferred language, or other factors”.

The goal and focus of the Accelerating Health Equity Conference is to educate professionals on the importance of health equity, build partnerships and bridges between the community and healthcare providers, and develop strategies to accomplish this. Each of the three days featured thought-provoking and inspiring plenary sessions.

Tuesday’s session was the opening keynote speaker Clint Smith, poet and author of #1 New York Times Bestseller How the Word Is Passed. In this session, Mr. Smith shared his personal experiences of visiting three places with significant historical importance related to slavery: Monticello, Blandford Confederate Cemetery, and Angola Prison.

Monticello is Thomas Jefferson’s plantation where he owned slaves who included his own children. Mr. Smith recalled a fellow tour attendee who at the end said, “They really took the shine off the guy!”

At the Blandford Confederate Cemetery, Mr. Smith met a man named “Jeff” who was sitting in a gazebo with his granddaughters, singing old confederate songs and explaining to his little ones how the Confederacy was about culture – not slavery. Jeff told Mr. Smith how he used to do the same with his grandfather, who had also passed down to Jeff that it was about culture, not slavery. This ignited a personal and internal dilemma for Mr. Smith between having to choose righting what is now five generations of passed down misinformation and the possibility of destroying Jeff’s image of his grandfather.

Angola Prison, which is built where one of the largest slavery plantations once stood, sells merchandise in the gift shop that reads “Angola Prison: A Gated Community”. Mr. Smith discusses parallels between a life in slavery and prison life. For more information on Clint Smith, visit https://www.clintsmithiii.com/.

Wednesday’s plenary session featured an incredible performance by the Pillsbury House Theater entitled “Breaking Ice”. This award-winning performance piece featured 6 actors varying in gender, age, race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and sexual orientation. Each of the performers demonstrated how their individual characteristics presented challenges for themselves in relating to and communicating with others, and vice versa. Each of the Pillsbury House Theater players gave charismatic and knock-out performances. For more information visit https://pillsburyhouseandtheatre.org/breaking-ice/.

Thursday’s closing plenary session featured a conversation with Ashton Applewhite, author of This Chair Rocks: A Manifesto Against Ageism. In her session, Ms. Applewhite discusses both how those presently and actively aging can do so with grace and pride, as well as how the “future old” can improve relationship-building with the aging via change in attitude and ending discrimination. Ms. Applewhite also discussed how ageism very often overlaps and piles on to additional discriminations including, but not limited to, sexism and racism. For more information, visit https://thischairrocks.com/.

Lyon Software is a proud annual sponsor of the Accelerating Health Equity Conference, and we look forward to seeing you next year in Atlanta, Georgia on May 20-22.

On the Shoulders of Giants…

Posted by: | Posted on: April 11, 2024

In their message to their stakeholders, Walgreens’ Executive Chairman and CEO, Stefano Pessina and Tim Wentworth, respectively, state “Our company’s heritage and longevity are a testament to the hundreds of thousands of passionate people who work with us today and all of those who, throughout our history, have made us what we are. We are truly standing on the shoulders of giants.”

Then they further expound upon both their commitment to being agile regarding company-wide sustainability practices that allow them to both maintain the already existing deep-rooted commitment to bettering the world’s well-being and also to have the flexibility required for rapidly adjusting to new and changing issues affecting people, planet, and profit.

To accomplish this, they created a Materiality Matrix that measures the importance level and focus priority of all factors of the business from the most important (Access to Affordable and Quality Healthcare) to least important (Tobacco Sales). Using this matrix, they developed a list of 24 Priority Topics and aligned them to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).


Walgreens’ priority topics put positive impacts for people at the top of the list and make up 12 of 24 on the list. These include access to affordable and quality healthcare, product safety, employee well-being, diversity (both equity and inclusion), human rights, prescription drug abuse, consumer health education and marketing, community engagement and partnerships, employee wages and hiring practices, cancer care and prevention, customer responsibility, and supplier diversity and inclusivity. 

These 12 priorities align with 14 of the 17 SDGs. The only three missing are fundamentally environmentally (planet) focused.


While the count of priority topics focused on the environment falls by nearly half from the count of those focused on people, the importance and efforts made by Walgreens does not wain. Their 7 planet-focused priority topics include reducing negative impacts of plastic, responsible and ethical supply chains, waste management, energy use climate impacts, product packaging, environmental impacts of materials, and chemical use management.

Once again, these 7 priority topics cover 14 of the 17 SDGs, many of which overlap with the people-focused topics. The three SDGs not covered by these topics are fundamentally profit (governance) focused.


Finally, Walgreens listed 5 priority topics dedicated to enhancing company profits in manners aligned with their goals for social responsibility. These are data privacy and security, product labeling and transparency, corporate governance, product end-of-life, and innovation and digitalization. While these may not necessarily sound like sustainability-focused topics, these align with 8 of the 17 SDGs. This means that all 17 of the Sustainable Development Goals are addressed in Walgreens’ 24 Priority Topics.

But what is getting accomplished?

In addition to many smaller goals and daily practices that work together to address the priority topics, Walgreens has large-scale annual targets for improving health equity and societal well-being. The 2023 target was to raise more than $25 million for the Susan G. Komen and The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, and the target was exceeded.

The fiscal 2024 target is to provide 100 million vaccinations for children in developing countries through “Get a Shot. Give a Shot.” and the UN Foundation, and this target is on track to be met. Finally, by fiscal 2025 end, Walgreens is committed to helping 500 million women and children by providing vitamins and minerals through Vitamin Angels. This, too, is on track, demonstrating Walgreens’ commitment to bettering our world.

Closing the Gap on the Worldwide Food Crisis

Posted by: | Posted on: March 28, 2024

Food is vitally important for sustaining human life. It provides energy, enables growth, enhances physical and mental functioning of the body, and is sustenance of life. The search for food, producing food, and means to get food is as old as human history.

There are people living in every country of the world who are affected by food shortages today. Millions of children in many countries are starving. It makes you wonder…

  • Is there not enough food for everyone in the world?
  • Is there a food shortage in the world?
  • Why is there a food crisis in several parts of the world?

Experts have attributed the global food crisis to droughts, wars, climate change, rising food prices, and lack of access to food. 

However, there is no food shortage on Earth. In fact, there is enough food produced annually to comfortably feed everyone. The world produces enough food to feed 1.5 times the global population. If there is enough food for everyone in the world, then why do millions of people in the world face hunger? Why do children have to starve to death? Droughts, wars, climate change, and rising food prices are only additional contributing factors to the food problem.

The Reason for the Food Crisis

The main reason for the food crisis is wastage of food. Experts suggest that as much as one third of the food produced is being wasted. That amounts to 1.3 billion tons of the food produced being wasted each year.

According to the National Restaurant Association, 22 to 33 billion pounds of food is wasted in restaurants every year in the United States alone. At home, a significant amount of food is never eaten and thrown away.

Think about it. How much of the food that you purchased at the grocery store this past month has been tossed in the trash without a second thought? I’ll bet it’s more than you realize. All of this wasted food is more than enough to feed all those millions of people who are deprived of food. If food is not wasted, nobody remains without getting any food.

What You Can Do

As individuals, you or I cannot stop the wars, droughts, and climate change. What every one of us can do is not waste or throw away perfectly good food. So how do we change our habits? I’ve got a few ideas.

The next time you go shopping, only purchase what you know will get eaten. When cooking, prepare smaller amounts so you know it will get consumed.

When you go to a restaurant, order only what you can eat. If you do have leftovers, be sure to take it home and eat it the next day. You can also donate the leftover food after a party or an event to your local food pantry or social service organizations. We don’t have to forgo anything.

Awareness Matters

The simple act of being aware that many people in the world are suffering without food, and not wasting food can make a huge difference. Anyone can eat only a limited quantity of food anyway.

Food is the essence of life. It is the valuable gift from Mother Nature and God. It should be treated with respect. Throwing away food is wrong against humanity. We can make our contribution to the world and humanity simply by not wasting or throwing away perfectly good food.

Accelerating Health Equity Conference was Inspirational

Posted by: | Posted on: July 27, 2023

A cancelled flight just minutes before heading to the Detroit Metro Airport wasn’t going to keep me from attending my first Accelerating Health Equity Conference. After scrambling to find a rental car on a Sunday morning, we knew we had a long road ahead of us. It took 13 hours of driving, but on Monday afternoon, my wife and I finally arrived in downtown Minneapolis.

Passionate Presentations

As a sponsor of the event, one of the privileges we as a company had was to introduce 8 of the breakout sessions. I was able to introduce 2 of them: one on Tuesday, and the last session of the conference on Thursday.

Introducing allowed me to get to know the presenters a little bit before their talk, as well as be more engaged throughout the presentation. One thing that stood out to me was the level of detail and passion that each presenter has for the well-being of their community.

In both sessions, it was highlighted many times how much their roles have changed since 2020. The level of care and compassion that the people working in hospitals have for their communities was truly inspiring.

Awesome Attendees

When I wasn’t presenting, I was at the front corner of the exhibit hall at our table talking to the attendees. I got a strong sense from our short conversations that they were truly engaged in doing the necessary work to continue advancing community benefit initiatives.

Everyone was very friendly and I could tell that they were genuinely happy to be there and learning from each other. I never realized how much collaboration goes on between employees of various healthcare organizations. As a first-time attendee, it was really remarkable to witness.

Final Farewell

After 3 exceptional days in Minneapolis, I was actually sad to see it end on Thursday afternoon. This was the first time I got to meet so many of our clients in person, and it was really nice to connect with them and get an up close look at what’s going on in the world of healthcare and community benefit.

Before leaving the hotel and heading for the Mall of America (it can’t be all business, right?) I took one more walk up to the exhibit hall on the 3rd floor. I just wanted to take it all in one last time.

It didn’t even look like the same room! Where we had packed up our materials just a couple hours earlier, the space was completely changed over from rows of tables and backdrops to an entire room of round tables. The hotel staff was already preparing for the next event. I was amazed at how quickly they changed over the room.

Save the Date

If you’ve never experienced the Accelerating Health Equity Conference, I highly recommend it. I was blown away by the presentations and hearing about all the great work in healthcare that is going on all over the country. Next year’s event is scheduled for May 7th – 9th in Kansas City.