Episode #169: Disrupting the Inequities in American Healthcare – with Kameron Matthews MD, JD, Chief Health Officer at Cityblock Health


What most of us are unaware of is that the health of the American public is worsening in relation to other developed nations – despite having, by far, the costliest and arguably most sophisticated healthcare system in the world. Our life span is decreasing. Inequities in care and disparities in health outcomes are worsening. The Washington Post, in a recent expose on American healthcare wrote that income is no longer the hallmark of inequity in the US – it’s now longevity – life itself. According to our guest today, this all sadly makes sense as we actively refuse to challenge and change the status quo in American healthcare at the necessary pace – to adopt a more practical, evidence-based, consumer-oriented approach – one that gets us beyond what she refers to as our traditional and myopic “clinical tendencies”.

Our guest is an incredibly accomplished physician, lawyer and healthcare policy expert – Kameron Leigh Matthews MD, JD, FAAFP. Dr. Matthews is a board-certified Family Medicine physician who has focused her career on marginalized communities. She is an elected member of the National Academy of Medicine where she chairs the Health Policy Fellowship & Leadership Programs Advisory Committee; and is currently a participant in the 6th cohort of the Aspen Institute’s Health Innovators Fellowship. Dr. Matthews received her bachelor’s degree at Duke University, her medical degree at Johns Hopkins University, and her law degree at the University of Chicago. 

What our guest and her colleagues at Cityblock Health are doing to change the status quo is straightforward yet quite remarkable. They are delivering integrated and advanced primary care to marginalized communities – and demonstrating improved outcomes. 

During the course of our interview, Dr. Matthews repeatedly referenced the well-worn definition of insanity – doing more of the same but expecting a different and better result.  When I asked her what Cityblock Health was doing differently, she cited numerous specifics that include: 

(1) providing care for a specific segment of the population – and deploying and customizing the healthcare resources that are needed by that segment; 

(2) utilizing value-based payment in order to sustainably deliver comprehensive services and to invest in innovative care models; 

(3) adopting a “partnership” model of care which includes assigning a “community health partner” (not worker) to each patient; 

(4) “multi-modal” care – delivering care where, when and how patients want it to be delivered – whether in their health “hubs”, in patients’ homes, or virtually; 

(5) a “one-stop-shop” of comprehensive clinical and non-clinical (SDOH) care – which includes a care team of doctors, nurses, and behavioral health experts, as well as partnerships with local healthcare systems and community-based organizations. 

The foundational thesis for Cityblock Health is evidence-based medicine – and the evidence is overwhelmingly clear. The vast majority of our health outcomes are dependent upon non-clinical factors – the so-called ‘social determinants of health’. Cityblock Health has built their model based on this evidence and is deploying a “whole-person”, community-based approach. Another foundational thesis is the principle of segmentation. By focusing on a specific segment of the population, they can more readily create a highly customized, appropriately resourced, and sustainable care model. 

One of the things I admire and respect about Dr. Matthews is that she not only has a prescription in hand, but she is actively delivering on it – with her work at Cityblock, her non-profit ‘Tour for Diversity in Medicine’ (which I recommend you look into), in her advocacy and policy work at the National Academy of Medicine, and more broadly in her national presentations.  

Dr. Kameron’s humanistic leadership and her courageous, intelligent voice is one that I hope we’ll continue to hear more from on the national healthcare scene.  And I hope, for our sake, we have the good sense to listen to it.

Zeev Neuwirth, MD