Author Archives: Dr. Ivor Horn

Our work toward health equity

As a physician and an academic, I’ve worked with communities that have historically experienced health inequalities due to factors like where they live, what their income is and how they identify. And I’ve seen firsthand how technology can connect individuals to critical information and tools that help them manage their health and help health care providers expand access to care for them.

Today, I lead a team at Google focused on making sure our research, products and technologies can help billions of people live healthier lives — especially the communities that have historically been underserved by healthcare.

This week, we’re hosting our annual Google Health Equity Summit. This event brings together researchers, policymakers, health equity experts and more from both inside and outside of Google to discuss pressing health equity issues. We’ll also share updates on how we’re helping billions of people be healthier. Here are a few highlights:

Connecting people to care that’s right for them

Information is a determinant of health, and bridging information gaps can help foster more equitable care. People from all over the world use Google products and services to find information about their health needs and questions. We work to make sure everyone can access authoritative information that is relevant and actionable based on those needs.

Search features help people easily access care that’s right for them — from showing appointment availability to finding in-network care options. We’ve updated our search experience to make it easier to navigate U.S. government benefits programs, like Medicaid which covers one in four people including about half of all children in the U.S.

A screenshot showing the new Search feature. The information for 'BadgerCare Plus' in Wisconsin is pulled up, and includes a list of 'Local and national resources' that lists links to that include information on eligibility and how to apply for Medicaid in Wisconsin, along with a link to download the application form. It also includes 'Support phone numbers' such as the general help line for the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.

In the coming weeks, when you search for Medicare and Medicaid plans, you’ll see additional information about eligibility requirements and the enrollment process. For those enrolled in Medicaid, you’ll also be able to filter nearby healthcare providers that accept Medicaid, alongside an existing filter for Medicare — making it easier to find doctors who accept your plan.

Screenshot of the search results for the query 'doctors near me', with the new feature that allows you to filter for doctors that accept Medicare and Medicaid. In the upper left corner of the Map, you can select a bubble that says 'Medicare/Medicaid' to filter the results.

People also turn to YouTube looking for answers to their health questions and to find online communities where they can connect about shared health issues and needs. To boost the quality of information and access to authoritative health content, we’ve launched product features and established partnerships over the past few years.

Today, YouTube is rolling out THE-IQ – Tackling Health Equity through Information Quality, a program in partnership with Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) that brings together organizations supporting underrepresented and under-resourced communities. YouTube and KFF will provide resources, such as seed funding and video production expertise, toThe Loveland Foundation, the National Birth Equity Collaborative and the Health Equity Leadership & Exchange Network at the Satcher Health Leadership Institute to help them reach more people on YouTube around important topics like mental health, maternal care and health access.

Extending resources and technologies to support community work

In addition to building health equity within our products, we have an equally important role to support work happening in the broader health community.

Last year, we debuted the Fitbit Health Equity Research Initiative to offer Fitbit and Fitabase resources and technologies to researchers studying the impact of health disparities and possible solutions. Awardees included those working on Black maternal, fetal and postpartum health, transgender youth sleep health, diabetes and cardiovascular health within Latino communities, and adolescent health and wellbeing.

This year, we’re expanding the program to further support groups disproportionately impacted by health disparities. Researchers at academic institutions and nonprofit research organizations in the U.S. are invited to submit their health equity research proposals to the Google Health Equity Research Initiative (HERI) for the chance to win Fitbit devices and Premium, Google Cloud credits or funding. With support from Fitabase, these researchers may also be eligible to win access to remote data collection and analysis tools. Learn more about eligibility and how to apply to this year’s HERI.

There are no shortcuts to achieving health equity. Google is committed for the long term to building and maintaining trust with communities who can benefit from our products.

To hear more about our work, tune in to the Google Health Equity Summit live stream at 10 a.m. PST on Monday September 12 or watch the recap on our event site.

Showing up to support women everywhere

Women around the world have had to change their lives in unpredictable ways. Despite the challenges of the pandemic, political restrictions and global conflict, their resilience has been remarkable. Women have continued to show up for themselves, their families and their communities — and it’s why on this International Women’s Day, and every day, Google is showing up to support them.

When I reflect upon the women who inspired me, I go back to my undergraduate education at Spelman College, a historically Black college for women in Atlanta. It was there I joined a sisterhood of women who looked like me and pushed me to strive for excellence. Today, as a physician and a director within Google Health, I cherish this support system more than ever. Throughout the pandemic, and thanks to technology, we’ve been there for each other through life's events, big and small — birthdays, loss of parents, encouragement on that Peloton ride, the list goes on. My connection with these women who are now lawyers, engineers, academic professors, executives at Fortune 100 companies, has been a lifeline because we are also mothers, daughters, sisters, aunts, life partners and friends. Google artist Thoka Maer, expresses this idea beautifully in our global, animated slideshow Doodle. Her Doodle illustrates the many roles we as women play, how we inspire those around us and how we continue to support each other when life forces us to suddenly adapt.

Supporting others means first supporting oneself, much like airlines tell you to put on your oxygen mask first before helping others. At Google, we’re working to help women prioritize their needs by putting a premium on safety and health, creating equitable opportunities and celebrating their accomplishments. This spirit of inclusivity and support extends to all who identify as women, recognizing the intersections of other identities, backgrounds and personal experiences. Join us as we bring people together from around the world for Google’s International Women's Day event series, starting today with our virtual Global Summit, followed by regionally focused events throughout the month of March. And read on to learn about all the ways we’re supporting women globally, not just today, but every day.

Helping women lead safer and healthier lives

Today, we’re announcing the open sourcing of code for a new tool that will address online violence targeted at women. Harassment Manager is an open-source tool built by Jigsaw, in collaboration with Twitter, the Thomson Reuters Foundation and human rights organizations. It is designed to help women, public figures such as journalists, activists, politicians and other groups at risk of experiencing online violence manage toxic language directed at them. We hope Harassment Manager, along with other tools like our recent domestic violence hotline feature on Search, will help women engage more safely online, and encourage others in the tech industry to connect women around the world to resources to improve their safety.

We’re also using research to help women better protect their health. Google Health is exploring how to improve breast cancer detection using artificial intelligence and enhance the patient experience for an otherwise nerve wracking mammogram process. And we’ll be revealing new research on maternal health at our second annual health event, The Check Up on March 24. Plus, YouTube’s new Body of Knowledge series is now sharing open and honest conversations about health so women can feel better supported and understood along their personal wellness journeys.

We take the health and wellbeing of the women in our workplace to heart, too. Earlier this year, we expanded our parental leave to at least 18 weeks for all parents and at least 24 weeks for all parents who give birth, and our carer’s leave for seriously ill loved ones doubled to eight weeks. We also offer berevement leave (which covers still birth and miscarriages) and two weeks of ramp back time so when employees return to work after parental leave, they’re able to work half of their normal weekly hours, while still being paid 100% of their salary.

A painting of a Black woman in a white lab coat with surgeons and nurses working behind her

Acrylic painting of Dr. Jane Wright, a pioneering African American cancer researcher and surgeon, by Ernest Crichlow (1980).

Closing the gender gap for women to build careers and businesses

Focused on building a world where all women can thrive, we’re creating more equitable opportunities in education and tech. For instance, we just announced a Women of Color in Tech scholarship for Black, Latina or Native women pursuing degrees in computer science. In Southeast Asia, our Women Developer Academy is teaching women the professional skills they need to jumpstart their own careers and our Women Techmakers are hosting hundreds of events around the world to bring people together for connection, learning and inspiration. And over the past several years, has given over $80 million to organizations creating opportunities for women across the world, including $25 million just last year for ourImpact Challenge for Women and Girls.

The need to improve equity for women extends well beyond tech. As recently as 2020, startups led by all-women teams received only 2.3% of funding raised around the world. Google for Startups wants to reduce that gender gap through programs like the first-ever Founders Academy, which taught women-focused health startups across the U.K., Switzerland, Germany and Israel how to build strategies for their work tackling issues like fertility, gynecological cancers and sexual wellness. Google is also providing resources for women who own small businesses to improve their digital skills through Grow with Google’s free on-demand workshops. These resources, along with Google’s online tools, have helped women entrepreneurs like Ashley Rouse, Owner and CEO of Trade Street Jam and Sashee Chandran, Founder and CEO of Tea Drops, reach more customers online to sell more products and grow their businesses.

Finally, our Google Media Understanding for Social Exploration team has been partnering with the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media to analyze media content with machine learning to identify gender gaps on screen. Their findings will continue to improve Google’s own work, while also helping marketers and the film industry improve representation and portrayals of women.

Celebrating the success of women globally

Part of showing up to support women everywhere is showcasing the progress we’ve made over time. Whether it’s celebrating the success of small-business owners around the world or using AI to uncover the roles and achievements of women in science throughout history, we want to show how the perseverance, passion and strength of women has made society much, much brighter. Our CEO of YouTube, Susan Wojcicki, is doing just that by spotlighting Pakistani Canadian creator Kanwal Ahmed on YouTube’s blog, and talking to her about her powerful and inspirational videos that create a safe space for women to connect. Also, check out our Google Arts & Culture Women in Culture hub for inspiring stories of female game changers from various fields and across the globe all year long or tune in all month to Google TV for movie, TV and music recommendations featuring collections, like brave women in unforgettable roles and women who've made Oscar history.

International Women’s Day gives us a chance to reflect on the progress that’s been made and we recognize there is still work to be done. Today, we’re hosting a global, virtual summit, open to all our employees, focused on community-building, professional development and celebrating the unique, intersectional aspects of our identities. As women have shown us time and again, they are changemakers, and we’ll continue to support them and show up for them in our workplace and in society.