The New England Journal of Medicine, July 22, 2020: COVID-19 and Health Equity — Time to Think Big
The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the magnitude of U.S. health inequities — which the World Health Organization defines as “avoidable, unfair, or remediable differences” in health. It has also highlighted structural racism — institutions, practices, mores, and policies that differentially allocate resources and opportunities so as to increase inequity among racial groups. COVID-19 mortality rates are more than twice as high in Black, Latinx and Indigenous populations as in White populations, and the data reveal a strong socioeconomic gradient (https://covidtracking.com/race/dashboard. opens in new tab).1-3 As physicians with diverse identities (Jewish male, Black female, and South Asian American male) whose work focuses on health equity, we are acutely aware that our profession failed when vulnerable people needed us.
Recognizing that health inequities have structural causes warranting policy-level solutions, we believe that the COVID-19 health equity disaster carries some lessons from which we can derive actionable policy targets for both advancing health equity and improving the pandemic response.