Five Steps States Can Take to Address Inequities of Health Crisis

In May, Tekisha Dwan Everette and Karen Siegel from Health Equity Solutions released an article titled, “Five Key Questions State Health Officials Can Ask Right Now to Advance Health Equity During COVID-19 Response Efforts.” Preliminary state COVID-19 data disaggregated by race, geography and gender shows significant disparities in care and infection rates. These disparities are symptomatic of much deeper systemic barriers (structural racism and sexism in particular) and go far beyond states’ responses to COVID-19. However, advocates can urge state health officials to use these suggestions as building blocks to an equitable crisis response.

Here are the five measures state advocates can prioritize to target these disparities in context:

  1. Appointment of an equity monitor or workgroup to work on your state’s COVID-19 response and connect with community partners to understand specific challenges. Policy written with an eye towards these challenges can better address underrepresented needs.
  2. Targeted interventions and outreach towards vulnerable populations with culturally and linguistically appropriate services (CLAS). Incorporating language needs, literacy levels and community specific considerations create more effective outreach strategies.
  3. Eliminating the inequality in existing guidelines for testing and targeted care. Communities with historically less access to care make fewer claims and have higher chronic disease rates, but state risk assessments can be primarily based on claims data. These vulnerable communities do not have the claims to afford them access to care, but they are already at higher risk of death from comorbidities.
  4. Use of demographic data to inform next steps. Disaggregated COVID-19 data by race, geography and gender reveals disparities in cases, hospitalizations, deaths, and testing availability to address in future policy.
  5. Engaging community health workers in contact tracing efforts – they know how to best get in contact with community members.

Health equity means that everyone, regardless of race, gender, socioeconomic status or geography can get access without barriers to quality health care. Systemic health equity problems cannot be solved by appointing an equity monitor in COVID-19 response efforts. But, urging your state to take these five steps to address the inequities of this health crisis that is distinctly impacting marginalized communities is an important place to start.