A Heart to Heart on Health and Why Health Equity is So Vital

By Elizabeth Elting | Posted May 10, 2023

A cause near and dear to my heart (pun intended), as anyone who knows me can attest, has been advocating for increased attention toward women’s heart health, and more specifically, health equity. Now, I’m not a doctor. I’m an entrepreneur, feminist, and soon-to-be first-time author! But when I see a problem needing fixing, I get to work. I’ve spent my life pursuing bridging gaps (first, for companies doing business globally, and now, for marginalized communities facing structural inequalities). I believe that everyone deserves the right to reach their full potential, succeed, and build financial independence. Few things are more vital to this goal than health equity, and that’s why I’m so passionate about it. 

My personal heart health journey introduced me to the dangerous and deadly gaps that exist in women’s healthcare.

I first got involved with the American Heart Association a decade ago when, through my own heart health journey, I began understanding how dangerous and deadly gaps in our healthcare system are to women. I saw firsthand how often women’s health is treated as an afterthought. From our reproductive health to our cardiac health, a dearth of research and resources prevents women and our doctors from getting the information needed to keep us healthy.

Heart disease manifests differently in women than in men. Our symptoms, while still clear, aren’t always your stereotypical chest pain. Women are more likely to experience a wide array of symptoms like nausea and back and jaw pain. This has been proven for decades. And yet, I can’t tell you how many women I know who were given the wrong information. Unfortunately, this led to them not knowing what signs to look out for, or how to reduce their risk factors. Even scarier, this is sometimes true for medical professionals, who can overlook symptoms of heart disease in women and dismiss our concerns with devastating consequences.

Health equity is vital for women and underserved communities.

Social determinants of health rob the futures of women and underserved communities across the U.S., where your zip code, income, race, and gender all impact your life expectancy. We can’t succeed without our health, and we can’t fight for a better future if we aren’t here to do so. That’s precisely why our passion and energy is needed. We have to be our own advocates—for ourselves, for our loved ones, and for our communities. We must prioritize self-care to continue lifting up others and fighting for a world where everyone can thrive.

Today, entrepreneurs, small businesses, and grassroots organizations are already doing critical work to tackle economic and social barriers to health within their communities. Investing in these organizations is a critical way we can all help advance health equity. In fact, last year, I launched the Elizabeth Elting Fund in partnership with the American Heart Association to do just that. Social entrepreneurs and community change-makers are paving the way for a brighter future for all—it’s up to us as leaders to step up and support their efforts.