FCB Health New York and TOUCH, The Black Breast Cancer Alliance are innovating for inclusion & equal health data
Building on years of clinical equality advocacy, FCB Health New York, an IPG Health Company, created EQL Band – an innovative prototype for the world’s first smartwatch band that uses sound smart technology to accurately hear all heartbeats equally, regardless of skin tone. In partnership with TOUCH, The Black Breast Cancer Alliance – a leading health equity advocacy organization with initiatives like #BlackDataMatters and When We Trial campaigns – FCB Health New York is calling on the tech industry and smartwatch manufacturers to join the fight for equal health data.
More than 70 million Americans rely on smartwatches to track their health and use the data generated to inform lifestyle and treatment decisions. But what if that health data isn’t accurate for everyone? Recent studies have shown that the green light technology used in smartwatches inaccurately reads heart rates in people with darker skin tones, which ultimately results in people of color left behind, delayed treatment and diagnosis, and lost lives.
People of color are being left behind
“People of color have a long history of being overlooked in clinical settings, and despite incredible technological advancements over time, it’s still happening in many ways today. This includes smartwatch technology, which has been shown to provide inaccurate health data for people with darker skin tones,” said Sommer Bazuro, PhD, Chief Medical Officer at IPG Health. “People use that data to make lifestyle decisions. That flawed data is fed into databases that inform long-term, and often life-saving treatment decisions. It’s used in clinical trials which fuel medical innovations and treatment choices of tomorrow. The scale and impact of this health data bias is enormous.”
By 2025, 50% of clinical trials will use smartwatches
Black Americans are 30%1 more likely to die from heart disease than White Americans. And it's estimated that by 2025, nearly 50%2 of clinical trials will incorporate smartwatch data. Which makes it even more critical to get these readings right.
“Equal health data is a human right. Equal health data matters. Black health data matters,” said Ricki Fairley, CEO of TOUCH, The Black Breast Cancer Alliance which champions the inclusion of Black women in breast cancer clinical trials through initiatives like When We Trial and Black Data Matters. “We are on a mission to make sure that people of color are included in clinical research to make sure that products being developed are effective for us.”
The number of smartwatch users is expected to rise to over 253 million by 2025.3 As the smartwatch sector grows, EQL Band is a bellwether of the impact that wearable health technology can have if manufacturers commit to and invest in inclusive approaches.
“With wearables positioned to play an expanded role in the future of healthcare monitoring and data collection, we need to ensure the technology we rely on works accurately for all, not some. The health sector has a culture of fast-moving innovation, and we believe we can innovate with inclusion. EQL Band is the manifestation of exactly that – we reimagined smartwatch technology, to create a product that’s accurate and equitable for all. EQL Band is an innovation born from necessity, the necessity of clinical equality,” said Kathleen Nanda, Chief Creative Officer at FCB Health New York.
Let’s silence the green light bias with sound
The EQL Band prototype uses electret microphone technology (a well-studied arterial pulse measurement tool) to listen to heartbeats at a 1-2 hertz frequency undetectable to the human ear and uses a cardio stethoscope to isolate and amplify the heart’s low-frequency sound waves emitted by the radial artery in the wrist.
“Using sound to overcome the skin tone bias in wearable technology is breakthrough,” said Dr. Daniel Acosta-Avalos, whose research at the Brazilian Center for Research in Physics (CBPF) pioneered the electret microphone technology. “Redesigning the smartwatch band to house this innovation is making equal data a seamless and empowering experience for every smartwatch user, regardless of their skin tone.”
The time for equal health data is now
Bazuro commented: “EQL Band proves that we CAN make smartwatch technology inclusive in ways that can save lives. We are calling on the tech industry, smartwatch manufacturers to join us and evolve smartwatches and do what’s right for health and humanity. And the time to do it is now, before people of color are left further behind and excluded from medical innovations.”
The EQL Band prototype was recognized on the 2023 Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity’s Innovation category shortlist, which celebrates creative uses of new technology to solve problems and drive positive impact. Recently, EQL Band took home four awards at the LIA Awards 2023 including Golds for “Evolution: Product Innovation” and “Design: Prototype” and medals in Health & Wellness categories “Prototype” and “Innovation.”
About FCB Health NY, An IPG Health Company
Part of the IPG Health network, FCB Health New York is a full-service agency with more than 40 years of experience marketing to healthcare professionals, patients and consumers. As a creative collective that believes in a never finished process with a passion for growth, driving business forward is in the agency’s DNA. With a client roster comprised of top brands both big and small, FCB Health New York is constantly innovating and creating highly effective solutions that accelerate their impact on the world. The agency has earned a steady stream of industry accolades year after year from Cannes Lions to Clio Health, to the Manny Awards. In 2022, FCB Health New York was named to Ad Age’s annual “Best Places to Work” list, and in 2018, 2019 and 2020, it was named to MM+M’s “Best Places to Work” list. Visit www.fcbhealthny.com to learn more.
About TOUCH, The Black Breast Cancer Alliance
TOUCH, The Black Breast Cancer Alliance (TOUCHBBCA) brings together organizations from all corners of healthcare to address this important challenge in new ways. TOUCHBBCA drives collaborative efforts across the breast cancer ecosystem to work towards the common goal of eradicating Black Breast Cancer. TOUCHBBCA hosts ‘The Doctor Is In'–the premiere Black Breast Cancer web series with an annual viewership of 3 million. The When We Tri(al) movement has resulted in over 15,000 Black women recruited to breast cancer clinical trial portals. Learn more at www.touchbbca.org.