In the past two weeks we’ve witnessed a lifetime worth of narratives and imagery that have vividly reminded us of what happens when humanity is violated, when people have had enough, when we stand divided, and when we come together as one. What more can be said?
In fact, it’s not about what we say, but what our continued actions in the pursuit of justice and equality will be. Once the dust settles, we must not return to the status quo. It is what we do after the collective outrage subsides and the protests stop that will lead to the lasting change we desire.
At Livongo, we are actively refocusing our internal and external diversity and inclusion efforts and holding ourselves accountable to continue making Livongo a great place to work for all, while serving our Members and our communities. My personal goal is to inspire other companies, organizations, and individuals to also take action. It is important to take a united stance against racism, injustice, and inequality – working together, we can make a difference.
The most recent atrocities against the Black and African American community have left yet another unfortunate and unnecessary stain in our history books, exacerbated by the effects of a looming pandemic. It doesn’t matter who you are, it was heartbreaking watching George Floyd beg for mercy as his life was taken. We all could see ourselves or someone we loved in Ahmaud Arbery, who was shot and killed while causally jogging through a neighborhood. These incidents, had they not been filmed, would have likely gone unnoticed, and those who committed these heinous acts would carry on without repercussions. But it isn’t just about these injustices or the many others that have been caught on camera for the world to see – it’s about the injustices that take place every day, right in front of our eyes as a result of dated policies, practices, societal “norms,” and other systemic deficiencies across multiple sectors, that cumulatively create a complicated web of inequality for the Black and African American community. Housing, criminal justice, education, and the healthcare industry all contribute to a reality of two different Americas, where Blacks and African Americans, minorities, and poor people of all colors are disproportionately and too often underrepresented and disadvantaged.
We must commit as humans, as professionals, and as leaders in our respective industries to making an impact where we are best equipped to do so. In echoing Livongo Founder and Executive Chairman Glen Tullman’s sentiments in his latest blog, commitment, “…starts with us, it starts with action, and it starts now.” At Livongo, our mission is to empower people with chronic conditions to live better and healthier lives, which we accomplish through a whole person approach. This means we combine advanced technology, data science, and coaching to offer personalized experiences for people with chronic and behavioral health conditions. While this is an innovative application of what a whole person approach means in the context of health and care, when thought of in the context of humanity, I believe this approach goes even deeper.
When taking a step back to understand the whole person, and the entirety of their lived experience, we must understand that we all have dreams, fears, goals, interests, and responsibilities. Many of these factors are shaped and influenced by our unique reality and the constraints, opportunities, and the environment in which we live. Life is stressful for all of us as we face multiple demands each day, such as our professional responsibilities, paying the bills, and looking after our families. Not to mention the additional stress brought on by COVID-19. However, no stressors are distributed equally nor are the consequences, as Black and African American and minority communities, the working class, and those of lower socio-economic status differ in the types of societal stresses they face and the resources to which they have access.
At Livongo, we cater to a diverse audience of Members, and in order for us to create the best possible experience, we must meet their needs by understanding how stressors in their environment exacerbate those conditions, and how they cope with their unique realities in life on a day to day basis. Further, at Livongo, we encourage our employees to bring their unique experiences and insights to work every day, so that we are best equipped to understand and meet the diverse needs and interests of all our stakeholders, beginning with our Members.
Having recently joined Livongo as the Head of Diversity and Inclusion, I am excited to introduce and build upon internal and external initiatives focused on equitable treatment, equal access to opportunity, representation of diversity at all levels of the organization, diversity education and training, and a focus on innovation and creativity. Diversity and inclusion are key drivers of innovation and are crucial elements for Livongo to better understand the needs and experiences of our Members, and for us to continue to attract and recruit top talent. Multiple empowered voices will lead to new ideas, new programs, and new perspectives, which will encourage informed and outside the box thinking.
Livongo is committed to exploring ways to ensure there is diverse representation at all levels of the organization. This starts by empowering and supporting Employee Resource Groups that will help educate and build resources and relationships that tie directly into our mission. We are actively strengthening and enforcing our policies of equal opportunity for all and creating safe spaces to have difficult conversations and learn from one another. With education in mind, we are creating training and learning opportunities that bring awareness to diversity and inclusion in the workplace. For our Members, we are implementing practices ensuring they have access to health literacy resources and working with communities and healthcare providers to reduce cultural barriers to care. Finally, we are partnering with and supporting organizations focused on advancing health and care within the Black and African American community and addressing disparities that exist for minority communities.
With this more holistic view of what a whole person approach entails, we are able to not only empower our Members as they manage their health, but also support and empower them through all of their lived experiences, including the systemic societal factors that have a direct impact on their health and wellbeing.
On a personal note, as a Black man raised by parents who came from poverty in the south and marched during the civil rights era, just as I am doing today, I was constantly reminded to never put my guard down. Along the way, I’ve had numerous experiences that validated those warnings, just as many others can attest to, and exactly why we are protesting today. Now, I have a son and daughter that I am responsible for protecting and providing opportunities for, and it breaks my heart to know I won’t always be able to shield them from the disparities that exist in this world. I can only hope for a better tomorrow and that we can build off the many acts of solidarity and empathy shown throughout the current responses to injustice — police kneeling with protestors, statements made by military generals and religious leaders, swift actions by Police Departments across the country addressing the use of excessive force, colleagues offering their voice and support, food and water given out at protests as a testament to humanity, and many others. This time feels different to me, and in an era where there is a tangible divide in this country, today, I am more hopeful than ever. Hopeful that this is the start of meaningful dialogue, action, and ongoing unified commitment toward justice, liberty, opportunity, and equality for all.
That said, as the dust settles, we must not accept the status quo. We must not forget this moment, or any other moments of injustice in our history against Women, the LBGTQ+ community, immigrants, Native Americans, and many others. This is our chance to leave this world better than we found it. I fully believe and commit to a mindset that we at Livongo are uniquely positioned and capable of changing the trajectory of both health and care, so that it meets the needs of all Americans. I am thankful to be on this journey with each and every one of you.