What We Can Do to Move Towards Health Equity
Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities
Long-standing systemic health and social inequities have put many people from racial and ethnic minority groups at increased risk of getting sick and dying from COVID-19. The term “racial and ethnic minority groups” includes people of color with a wide variety of backgrounds and experiences. But some experiences are common to many within these groups. Racial and ethnic minority groups are experiencing higher rates of COVID-19 infection, hospitalization, and death. Inequities in the social determinants of health have historically prevented these groups from having the same opportunities for economic, physical, and emotional health. These inequities are highlighted by the factors that contribute to increased risk of COVID-19 exposure, severe illness from COVID-19, death, and unintended consequences of COVID-19 mitigation strategies.
We can work together to prevent the spread of COVID-19, reduce the risk of severe illness and death, and lessen the unintended consequences of COVID-19 mitigation strategies. Specific examples of how we all have a part in promoting fair access to health are available at What We Can Do. We can work to ensure that all people have resources to maintain and manage their physical and mental health, including easy access to information, and affordable medical care. We need programs and practices that fit the communities where people live, learn, work, play, and worship. Ensuring fair access to quality, affordable programs and services – for education, housing, transportation, childcare, healthcare, and more – will improve opportunity in our country and ensure that all communities can thrive.
Community- and faith-based organizations, employers, schools, healthcare systems and providers, public health agencies, policy makers, and others all have a part in helping to promote fair access to health.
- Policies, programs, and practices may put people from racial and ethnic minority groups at increased risk of health and social inequities. Reviewing policies, programs, and practices can help identify those that support equal access to health. Promoting these programs and improving services that have equal access for everyone will help prevent poor health outcomes from occurring or getting worse. Failures in systems to provide equal access to resources and opportunities for some individuals or communities have negative effects on the broader society.
- Public health programs, policies, and practices must recognize and respect the diversity of the community they serve. Community engagement efforts can help strengthen cross-sector partnerships, ensure culturally and linguistically appropriate practices, build trust within communities, promote social connection, and advance health equity. Specific steps for effective partnerships for consideration are outlined in Engaging With Communities – Lessons (Re)Learned From COVID-19.
- Health equity is intersectional. Individuals may belong to several groups that historically have experienced discrimination, such as people with disabilities, people experiencing homelessness, and people who are incarcerated or detained. People who have experienced discrimination may be affected by layered health and social inequities. Examining such intersections can help us better understand how to promote health equity and improve health outcomes.
- Well Being Trust’s Thriving Together: A Springboard for Equitable Recovery & Resilience in Communities Across Americaexternal icon
- Association of State and Territorial Health Official’s Health Equity During COVID-19: Top Strategies for an Equity-Focused Recovery Strategyexternal icon
- Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Health Equity Principles for State and Local Leaders in Responding to, Reopening and Recovering from COVID-19external icon
- National Academy of Medicine’s Resources on Health Equityexternal icon