Environmental, Social & Governance

Addressing health disparities: Nan Gu works to create a better future of health

By Kailah Peters

May 16, 2024 | Article | 5-minute read

Addressing health disparities: Nan Gu works to create a better future of health

In today’s world, the disparities within healthcare systems are glaringly evident. Despite advancements in medical technology and access to resources, there’s a pervasive sentiment among people that the system isn’t working fairly for everyone. This sentiment is not limited to a single country or demographic; it’s a global concern that demands attention.


Passion for understanding and mitigating these disparities has inspired associate principal Nan Gu and his colleagues to form ZS’s patient health and equity (PHE) accelerator. This team intentionally partners with clients, industry leaders and nongovernmental organizations around the world to advance health equity for all people and communities. 

Where passion changes lives

As proven by our decades of innovative solutions, ZS knows that the first step to solving a problem is understanding it thoroughly. ZS's 2024 Future of Health Report surveys adults around the world and sheds light on the reality facing healthcare systems worldwide.


“Unfortunately, the fact that we have an issue with global health disparities is not a surprise,” Nan says. “I see the impact of health disparities daily, from the community in my backyard to the clients I work with. But my team is in the unique position to do something about it.” 

In the pursuit of equity, ZSers’ personal passion for addressing health disparities becomes the catalyst for change. The PHE accelerator fuels empathy, resilience and determination to ensure that every individual receives the care and support they deserve.


Findings in the 2024 ZS Future of Health Report revealed that the majority of respondents across various countries feel alienated from the healthcare system, citing barriers to care and a lack of trust in its efficacy. In five of the six countries surveyed, the percentage of people in every country who said “I feel like the healthcare system doesn’t care about people like me” increased between 2022 and 2023. From frustrations with the process of accessing care to concerns about affordability, these challenges are pervasive and deeply rooted.


One key aspect highlighted in the report is the importance of preventive care in reducing health disparities. The overwhelming majority of respondents expressed support for shifting funding toward preventing diseases, signaling a clear mandate for change.


“Our research has shown that access and knowledge of preventive care significantly varies based on socioeconomic class,” Nan says. “But preventive care isn’t a luxury; it’s the cornerstone of equality in health. By prioritizing prevention, we can bridge the gap between privilege and adversity, laying the foundation for a better future of health.”

ZS is partnering with the University of Chicago’s recently developed Chicago Alternative Prevention Study for BReast CAncer in Diverse Populations of High-Risk Women (CAPSBRACA) to accomplish this goal. This innovative research program focuses on personalized breast cancer prevention screening, specifically targeting women at high risk, including those from underserved communities. Recognizing the importance of inclusivity and addressing the understudied risks faced by women of color, CAPSBRACA aims to revolutionize breast cancer prevention strategies by ensuring access to those who need it most.


As part of CAPSBRACA’s mission to expand the trial to new sites of care across the U.S. in 2024, ZS has played a pivotal role in understanding the university’s trial communications requirements and limitations. Led by Cecilia Zvosec, a strategy insights and planning manager in New York, ZS has developed proto personas, website architecture and content tailored to alleviate anxieties while offering clear and practical information. Through this collaboration, ZS and the University of Chicago are driving meaningful progress toward achieving health equity in breast cancer prevention and care.


Additionally, around one in four or more respondents across countries said they avoid care due to hassles. “Too often, the complexities and anxieties surrounding healthcare become barriers, deterring individuals from seeking the vital care they need,” Nan says. “Whether it’s the cumbersome administrative processes, the fear of receiving distressing news or simply the commute to reach a healthcare facility, these obstacles can overshadow the importance of prioritizing one’s health. Yet, in recognizing and addressing these challenges with empathy and innovation, we can dismantle these barriers and empower individuals to embrace healthcare as a pathway to well-being.”


Our PHE accelerator has partnered with clients on countless projects aimed at alleviating stress points in healthcare. Poor communication between patient and provider can create obstacles to quality care and lead to preventable health disparities. That’s why we’ve partnered with AstraZeneca to create Universal Language Standards to help providers share complex health information with patients in an easily understood and accessible way.


Unconscious bias can prevent individuals from receiving the care they deserve. In a bid to address the pervasive racial, ethnic and socioeconomic disparities inherent in pediatric asthma care, Nan worked with the Children’s Hospital at Montefiore in New York to identify and mitigate bias in the treatment of patients with this chronic condition.


Through an extensive survey involving over 300 U.S. physicians, the partnership unearthed critical insights, highlighting the undeniable influence of socioeconomic factors on patients’ health outcomes and access to treatment. Armed with this knowledge, Nan and his team are poised to implement targeted interventions and foster a healthcare landscape characterized by equity, compassion and inclusivity, ultimately striving to enhance the quality of care for all pediatric asthma patients.

No one group can build the future alone

Solving healthcare’s problems won’t be quick or easy, and Nan can’t do this alone. However, building successful health equity partnerships that drive meaningful change is attainable.


“The survey conducted by ZS serves as a wake-up call for the healthcare industry,” Nan says. “It’s clear that the status quo is no longer acceptable, and action is needed to address the systemic inequities that exist. By partnering with clients around the world, my team strives to create a healthcare system that is truly equitable and accessible for all.”


At ZS, we are committed to playing our part in this vital mission, and we invite others to join us in this endeavor. Follow us on social media and apply to join our team that’s helping to improve health outcomes for all.

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