Individuals in Black, Indigenous, and rural communities have been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Bipartisan efforts to reduce health disparities in these communities cannot succeed without addressing economic and social drivers of health, often called “social determinants of health”. For example, poverty affects access to quality housing, food, and the ability to withstand economic shocks like unemployment due to the pandemic. Education and economic opportunities affect income and health decision-making. Inadequate transportation, environmental contaminants (e.g., mold or lead in substandard housing), historical inequities, and discrimination also contribute to health disparities, which are exacerbated during the COVID-19 pandemic. A disconnect between community needs and the disproportionate availability of health care services with adequate capacities further widens these disparities.
Current policy efforts related to COVID-19 provide an opportunity for reducing disparities as well as improving economic mobility, health care, and the criminal justice system. Issues related to disparities in this context include, but are not limited to, housing, violence and crime (e.g., due to stress, economic instability), workplace issues (e.g., access to PPE, low wages, racism), access to resources (e.g., food, technology), and healthcare (e.g., pre-existing conditions, insurance, infrastructure). Access to key supports are particularly diminished in these racialized and marginalized communities. Promising practices in relaxing restrictions on healthcare providers, improving work and home environments, and digital innovations have the potential to enhance access points. This briefing will cover a few issues related to racial and health disparities: (i) identifying complex needs that contribute to disparities, (ii) promoting training for individuals in marginalized communities (iii) expanding access to care and information through technology.
Agenda & Materials
Opening Remarks by: Congresswoman Yvette Clarke
Meeting the Needs of Indian Country and Indigenous Populations Ann Michelle Daniels, South Dakota State University
In addition to participating in our virtual congressional briefing, Ann Michelle Daniels, Dara Whalen, and Kamila Alexander participated in short interviews with RPC interns Nicolyn Charlot and Brianna Baker. These interviews go into more depth about the disparities Black, Indigenous, and rural communities are facing, and what policymakers can do to address these issues.