posted by AHIP
on July 20, 2020
For most of 2020, we have watched as the COVID-19 crisis has ravaged the physical and economic health of communities throughout the country. With Americans isolated in their homes and millions unemployed, the need to address food insecurity, housing instability, and social isolation is greater than ever.
Disadvantaged and minority communities are experiencing higher rates of infection and death from the disease, as well as greater economic impact because the social factors that are challenging in normal times are only amplified by a global health crisis.
According to the CDC, initial analysis of data out of New York shows that despite only making up 18% of the community, Black patients represented 33% of hospitalized COVID-19 patients. Nationally, the COVID Racial Tracker found that Black patients die of COVID-19 at rates far higher than their proportion of the population, NPR reported.
“The way the COVID-19 pandemic has played out in minority communities did not come out of the blue,” said Dr. Garth Graham, VP of Community Health at CVS Health during the AHIP 2020 Institute and Expo. “What drives differences in life expectancy is housing, education, and socioeconomic status overall. And that plays a direct role in what we’re seeing in the unfolding of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
“I think much of this comes down to the ability to socially distance,” said Michelle Jester, Executive Director of Social Determinants of Health for AHIP. “Including the ability to retain your job and work safely from home, ability to easily and safely obtain testing and treatment, ability to easily and safely run errands and purchase basic needs, ability to practice safe hygiene practices, and so on.”
“We know that disparities are often the result of structural policies and socioeconomic circumstances,” said Jester. “Earlier reports suggested that disparities were likely due to the fact that African Americans and LatinX had greater comorbidities that make them susceptible to the disease. But that could ‘place the blame’ on people rather than helping us to look more broadly at why some communities have more of those comorbidities.”
Today, health insurance providers are engaging with local health care and social service providers to address socioeconomic needs including food security, employment, and housing, during the COVID-19 crisis and beyond. A recent brief from AHIP describes some of these efforts, including:
“It is only by addressing things like food insecurity, mental health needs, and improving access to care that we can really start turning the curve,” said Graham. “We see change when organizations step up and lead.”