Addressing health inequities is critical to protecting everyone’s health and being prepared for future health public emergencies
(Washington, DC – November 10, 2021) – Trust for America’s Health (TFAH) applauds the report of the COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force, including its recommendations to President Biden for mitigating the health inequities caused or exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and for preventing such inequities in the future. We furthermore commend the Biden Administration for responding to the report’s call to action with new investments in initiatives to improve community and public health in traditionally under-resourced communities, including communities of color and among underserved populations.
In January of 2021, the Biden Administration created the Task Force, a multisector group of individuals with expertise and lived experience relevant to groups suffering disproportionate rates of illness and death from COVID-19, experts in fields such as public health, healthcare, behavioral health, and community-based services, as well as government officials. The Task Force represents diverse perspectives on how to address COVID-19 related health and social inequities and strengthen the nation’s public health response.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed and exacerbated longstanding systemic inequities in our nation,” said J. Nadine Gracia, MD, MSCE, President and CEO of Trust for America’s Health. “The COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force has laid out a road map for reducing inequities during this pandemic and before the next public health emergency. As the report acknowledges, we must engage in a multisector effort to address the upstream factors that contribute to underlying health inequities in order to promote optimal health and build resilience in all communities. TFAH looks forward to working with the administration on our shared goals.”
The Task Force’s report echoes many of TFAH’s policy recommendations. The following are policy priorities shared by the Task Force report and TFAH:
- Fund the public health workforce and emergency response. The federal government should increase and sustain funding for equity-centered pandemic and public health emergency activities and infrastructure at the federal, state, local, Tribal, and territorial levels. This should include building a workforce dedicated to public health emergency preparedness, response, recovery, and disaster-related behavioral health services and supporting communities with the greatest healthcare inequities.
- Support equity-centered data collection. The federal government should fund an equity-centered approach to data collection, including ensuring sufficient funding to collect data for groups that are experiencing disproportionate impact during the pandemic and to understand the specific needs of currently underserved populations.
- Fund data modernization for health settings. The federal government should provide funding for healthcare and public health to update data systems centered on equity and to ensure interoperability and automatic electronic lab reporting of a robust set of disaggregated, standardized socioeconomic and demographic data elements.
- Strengthen multi-sector collaboration. The federal government should strengthen collaboration with a diverse array of community-based organizations and public health providers by providing robust and sustained funding to build capacity, provide technical assistance and establish partnerships with communities of color and other underserved populations.
- Prioritize vaccine, testing, treatment, and personal protective equipment (PPE) access for underserved communities. Federal, state, local, Tribal, and territorial governments should prioritize vaccine distribution, testing, treatment, and PPE access to communities of color and other underserved populations, including those who face mobility, geographic, or other barriers to access.
- Address the social determinants of health. The federal government should lead efforts to advance the social determinants of health including nutrition safety net programs for individuals and families who are food insecure and for those that have limited access to healthy food options.
- Increase access to behavioral healthcare. Federal, state, local, Tribal, and territorial governments should increase investment in and access to comprehensive, equity-centered behavioral health services, including a focus on prevention.
- Lead and coordinate implementation of the COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force’s recommendations from a permanent health equity infrastructure in the White House.
TFAH reports on emergency preparedness, public health funding, leveraging policy to improve Americans’ health and create health equity, and a legislative blueprint to transform the nation’s public health system, include additional recommendations that support the Task Force’s health equity goals.