Impact of Health Inequity
The novel coronavirus pandemic has been followed by a second pandemic – the emotional fallout from COVID-19. And with the now widely acknowledged and longstanding epidemic of racial injustice, police brutality, and the frequent killings of African Americans at the hands of law enforcement officers, a “trifecta of suffering” has emerged. And the 8 minute, 46 second death of George Floyd witnessed by the world has elicited a global reaction.
A Trifecta of Suffering
These events have triggered turmoil and a wide range of emotions – fear, horror, disbelief, grief, heartbreak, anger, resentment, rage, an ignited sense of purpose and a reactivated commitment to action. For some, eyes have been opened, and for others overwhelming physical and emotional exhaustion has set in.
This epidemic has widespread implications for the health and well-being of its victims (and society as a whole), with multigenerational impacts sometimes noted down to a cellular level.
The tragic reality of health inequity has recently been exemplified by the disproportionate risk in communities of color of severe complications and death due to COVID-19. But the array of “isms,” (racism and sexism to name two) resident in 2020 societies, and the impact of the discrimination which results, contribute to health inequity, a condition which ultimately is detrimental to us all.
- Health Equity | CDC
- Why Discrimination Is a Health Issue | RWJF
- Racism and Health | BMJ
- The Impact of Racism on the Health and Well-Being of the Nation (4-part webinar series) | Minnesota Department of Health
- The Hidden “Blessing” of COVID-19: Let’s Not Blow it, People! | InsightMD
In order to achieve health equity, there are 4 areas of focus which must be addressed:
- health (il)literacy
- health disparities
- social determinants of health (SDOH)
- cultural (in)sensitivity
The National Institutes of Health define health disparities as “the difference in the incidence, prevalence, mortality, and burden of disease and other adverse health conditions that exists among specific population groups.” Many factors may impact an individual’s health status and outcomes, including age, gender, socioeconomic status, educational background, race/ethnicity, language and culture, sexual orientation, disability status, and even geographic locale.
Because deficiencies in the healthcare system are often brought to light when addressing health disparities, it is the case that closing such gaps means a positive impact on the overall quality and cost of care. The elimination of health disparities is a win for all.
- COVID-19 Health Equity Resources | AMA
- Addressing Social Determinants of Health: Where to Begin? | The Marblehead Group and Cardinal Consulting
- All for One and One for All: The Business Case for Addressing Health Inequity and Health Disparities | Insight MD
- What if We Treated Zip Codes Before Treating Disease? | pwc
Z. Colette Edwards, MD, MBA, leads Insight MD, a healthcare consultancy, which offers program design and implementation, targeted strategic planning and development, innovative product design, consultative data and clinical ROI analysis including benefit design and large claims analysis, health disparities/health literacy/cultural competency consultation, and PeopleTweaker, a coaching service line providing health, wellness, and life coaching and training in health coaching techniques for health professionals and support staff.