A group of top health services researchers from across University of Pennsylvania schools and centers are coming together in an initiative to foster and support new scientific inquiries aimed at finding solutions to the problems of institutional, structural, and interpersonal racism that impact health, including throughout the U.S. health care system.

Called Bold Solutions: Dismantle Racism. Advance Health., the broad effort specifically intends to look beyond the large body of evidence that has so solidly documented the breadth and depth of entrenched racial inequities in health care and other systems over the last several decades, and focus on exploring and implementing solutions.

Raina Merchant

Long-term vision

“This is a big initiative that is thinking in the long-term about developing, implementing, and disseminating a national model for addressing interpersonal, institutional, and structural racism within health care,” said Raina Merchant, one of the Bold Solutions organizers.

Merchant, MD, MS, an Associate Vice President at Penn Medicine, Associate Professor of Emergency Medicine, and LDI Senior Fellow, said the name “Bold” reflects the dramatic nature of the actions required to deal with what has, up to now, been an intractable problem for the health and health care of people of color.

Pilot research grants

The Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics (LDI) has issued a request for proposals to its hundreds of Senior and Associate Fellows across the Penn campus, and will fund a program of pilot grants to start the first round of Bold Solutions research projects.

Rachel Werner

“Funded science is serious science,” said LDI Executive Director Rachel Werner. “LDI’s investment in this initiative signals that we really mean business and intend to make a difference. We want to overcome inertia and resistance to make bold, necessary, and essential change that addresses the effects of racism on health.”

Science and Action for Black Health

The initiative, whose subtitle is “Science and Action for Black Health,” emphasizes that health is a fundamental barometer of social justice. “Health systems are hubs of science and innovation and often the dominant economic engines in their communities. Health care organizations must be at the forefront in fighting racism,” said Kevin Volpp of Bold Solutions.

Kevin Volpp

Every Bold Solutions project will aim to have a Black co-lead and will partner with Black faculty, staff, and students, and with Black businesses when feasible. It will also include community organizations and groups in meaningful ways in all projects.

Initial areas of focus will be health care, payment models, neighborhoods and built environments, economic opportunities, and financial health. 

The eight Bold Solutions team members are all leaders in health care-related research centers at Penn and highly respected experts in their diverse fields. They are:

Raina Merchant, MD, MSHP, Director of the Penn Medicine Center for Digital Health

David Asch, MD, MBA, Executive Director of the Penn Medicine Center for Health Care Innovation

Alison Buttenheim, PhD, MBA, Associate Director of the Penn Center for Health Incentives and Behavioral Economics and Director of Engagement at the Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics

Carolyn Cannuscio, ScD, Director of Research at the Penn Center for Public Health Initiatives

Eugenia South, MD, MSHP, Director of the Penn Urban Health Lab

Atheendar Venkataramani, PhD, MD, Director of the Penn Opportunity for Health Lab

Kevin Volpp, MD, PhD, Director of the Penn Center for Health Incentives and Behavioral Economics

Rachel Werner, MD, PhD, Executive Director of the Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics.