COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force Chair, Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, held the seventh public meeting recently to vote on a final slate of recommendations for mitigating health inequities caused or exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, and for preventing such inequities in the future. Task Force members also discussed and voted favorably on suggested actions for the Biden-Harris Administration to prioritize and propose outcomes to set the vision for the country’s goals.
Dr. Nunez-Smith opened the meeting by recognizing the need for an all-of-society effort to advance health equity. “We must continue to dismantle the network of structural barriers to stop health, racial/ethnic and social inequities at the root, and mitigate the pandemic’s far-reaching effects in the present. We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity for transformational change, but we must acknowledge that advancing health equity will take multisectoral commitment and collaboration. We all must work together to disrupt the predictable pattern of who is harmed first and harmed worst. That intentionality, collaboration and frequent review and course correction will be required to achieve these goals.”
The Task Force suggested five actions for the Biden-Harris Administration to prioritize: empower and invest in community-led solutions to address health equity; enforce a data ecosystem that promotes equity-driven decision making; increase accountability for health equity outcomes; invest in a representative healthcare workforce and increase equitable access to quality health for all and; lead and coordinate implementation of the COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force’s recommendations from a permanent health equity infrastructure in the White House.
The Task Force proposed four outcomes to set the vision for what the country should achieve: everyone will have equitable access to high-quality healthcare; data disaggregation to accurately represent all populations and their lived experiences to drive equitable decisions and actions; health equity will be centered in all processes, practices, and policies and; community expertise and effective communication will be valued in health care and public health.
The Task Force deliberated and voted favorably on a final slate of more than 300 interim recommendations to ensure an equitable response to this pandemic. Dr. Nunez Smith added that the Biden-Harris Administration has taken steps to address approximately 57% of these recommendations.
Out of this total slate, the Task Force publicly discussed 55 refined, consolidated, and prioritized recommendations. Excerpts of these refined recommendations include, but are not limited to:
- Prioritize vaccine, testing, treatment, and PPE access to underserved communities
- Standardize demographic and socioeconomic categories in data and support equity centered data collection
- Further promote research to understand and eliminate structural racism in healthcare systems
- Strengthen affordable broadband access and increase affordable, accessible housing
- Advance cultural responsiveness and language access towards AAPI and other populations facing pandemics-fueled discrimination and xenophobia
- Invest in workers and working families and partner with worker organizations for equitable healthcare access
- Fund organizations that work with communities of color and other underserved populations
- Execute a long COVID communications campaign
- Mitigate the risk of COVID-19 infection in carceral settings
Dr. Nunez-Smith closed the meeting with remarks on the future. “We must strive towards a new post-pandemic reality, a reality that puts science, reliable communication, community, and health, racial/ethnic and social equity at the forefront of our pandemic response.”