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WGU Pioneers Coopetition for Health Equity

Leavitt School of Health to Host Accelerator 2023: Health Equity Conference, Oct. 17, in Texas

Rio Grande Valley (RGV), the southernmost point of Texas, is a four-county region composed of Starr, Hidalgo, Willacy, and Cameron counties. Proximity to the Mexico border, defines the personality of RGV – an amalgamation of traditions, cultures, and transformations.

The region, however, is a paradox – a confluence of affordability with deprivation, advancement with stagnation, and resilience with vulnerabilities. The four RGV counties are amongst the poorest counties in the United States and access to healthcare is still a luxury for many. As mentioned in the first blog of this series, according to the RGV Health Connect Organization, the region’s median household income is $46,016, compared to $71,347 median household income state-wide in Texas. The residents struggle with diabetes, obesity, cervical cancer, and other health issues. According to The Texas Tribune, the RGV region acutely struggled with economic supplies and lack of resources, including lack of hospital beds, during the COVID-19 pandemic. Texas Public Radio also referred to RGV as “one of the biggest hotspots” during the pandemic.

“The COVID-19 pandemic exposed communities like the Rio Grande Valley. Lack of access to health facilities, increase in the diabetes crisis, limited transportation for patients, and economic depressions proliferated the inequities even further,” said Edwin Estevez, co-founder and principal, AltaCair, and market president, Prominence Health. “It made us all re-think and re-evaluate what we must call the real transformation, and how we must together advance to tackle deprivation and uplift the system.”

Western Governors University’s (WGU) Institute for Advancing Health Value (IFAHV), a part of the Michael O. Leavitt School of Health, and AltaCair, an accountable care organization, take the first bold step to initiate coopetition (collaboration with competitors) to advance value for health equity in the RGV with Accelerator2023 event on Oct. 17 in Texas.

This research-backed event will focus on discussing the social, economic, and environmental factors that contribute to health disparities. Participants will analyze and review data-driven case studies of successful community-level interventions for the improvement of health equity. The efforts will be geared toward fostering impactful strategies that drive high-level tactical executions. The convening event will serve as a platform for inspiring collective action and nurturing a culture of cooperation to advance health equity.

The coopetition-driven program will bring together stakeholders, propel the community-based ecosystem, and revolutionize the healthcare landscape of the region by revisiting the principles of ethics and humanity, thought leadership, and action-oriented mindset. The investment will coalesce health systems, community-based organizations, accountable care organizations, workforce entities, and education alliances into a policy and advocacy group. The vision is to think beyond man-made geographical borders and develop a scalable model with replicable results to optimize the overall health equity structure.

“Health equity initiatives in the spirit of RGV progress are the goal of this coopetition program. The Accelerator 2023 convening, followed by a series of community-based action networks formed during the event, will promote new connections, drive fresh perspectives, and craft RGV-centric impactful policies,” said Eric Weaver, executive director for the Institute for Advancing Health Value at WGU’s Leavitt School of Health. “It’s about time we take concrete steps to establish a value-based model for the betterment of RGV and the entire rural America.”

Accelerator2023, will be held Tuesday, Oct. 17, in Mission, Texas. Witness the transformation in real-time and join those working to advance the Rio Grande Valley. Register here.

This blog is part of a series. Watch for the next post to learn more about Accelerator2023 and its anticipated impact on the RGV.

Read part one

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