Ruth C. Browne, SD, is president and chief executive officer of Ronald McDonald House New York, which provides care, support, and services to families battling pediatric cancer and other serious illnesses. The organization is focused on keeping families close to each other and the treatment their children need, addressing the social determinants of health beyond the clinical advancements in pediatric cancer care, and ensuring health equity among vulnerable and at-risk populations in New York City.
Why did you decide to pursue a career in health care?
My entire academic tenure, I was educated in the minority, until I arrived at The University of the West Indies. While studying abroad, I was introduced to students and teachers that looked like me, which helped me to recognize that I wanted to experience similar opportunities in the future. However, I knew that I would need a marketable skill to allow me to do so and was drawn to a career in public health.
What is the biggest challenge currently facing New York’s health care system?
Prioritizing the health of those who are economically disadvantaged is the biggest issue facing New York’s health care system. Fortunately, New York State is moving toward policies that are addressing the broader social determinants of health, which Ronald McDonald House NY fulfills through our mission to provide temporary housing for families with children battling cancer and other serious illnesses, who face even broader social risks.
How can New York State ensure access to affordable health care?
Health care is a right, not a privilege, and it’s unacceptable for medical bankruptcy to be increasing in our state. In addition to the preservation of the Affordable Care Act, it’s critical that New York State creates policies that tackle these issues while expanding Medicaid to address the social determinants of health. Providing access to care is a major focus of RMH-NY, as is prioritizing the public hospital system, which contains large Medicaid dependent populations.
What does the future of health care look like?
Communities are plagued by health disparities, chronic illnesses, and behavioral issues, and health care needs to be inclusive of addressing social determinants of health. The NYS prevention agenda includes a range of issues, but there is a need for innovation — particularly around how health care organizations share data to inform our programs, and the kinds of services that we can cover when we firmly plant ourselves at the center of the health care system.
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