Numerous recent reports and studies on the issue of health disparities within the U.S. population, particularly within minority population groups have heightened awareness about the role of chronic diseases including their effects on the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to Fatima Cody Stanford, an obesity medicine physician scientist at Massachusetts General Hospital and the Harvard Medical School, a person’s economic status, underlying health conditions and other conditions may lead to the health disparities observed among underrepresented adults.
Sanford also noted that. “We need to be cognizant of the fact the people who are disproportionately impacted are those that have less power to deal with these issues…Better chronic disease management, particularly surrounding obesity, which has borne itself out to be one of the major risk factors for COVID-19 is necessary for the treatment of obesity across the age spectrum, particularly in communities that look like mine.”
Finally Dr. Sanford summarized the fact that “There is still a lot for us to learn as we conduct research….We can make an impact. We know that issues related to structural racism and related to the history of this country have made it that certain groups are disproportionately impacted by chronic and acute diseases like COVID-19.”
A position paper published in January 2021 by the American College of Physicians (ACP) provides a framework for recognizing, confronting and removing disparities in health and health care that individuals face based on their race, ethnicity and religious and/or cultural identities.
Two of the 17 recommendations are noted below:
- ACP recommends that policymakers address the effect of social drivers of health, like poverty, on the health and health care of those affected, while addressing disparities associated with personal characteristics independent of, or in addition to, socioeconomic status.
- ACP believes that policymakers should recognize and address how increases in the frequency and severity of public health crises, including large-scale infectious disease outbreaks, poor environmental health, and climate change, disproportionately contribute to health disparities for Black, Indigenous, Latinx, Asian American, Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander, and other vulnerable persons.
Much needs to be done to address health disparities across the board. This has been particularly demonstrated with the COVID-19 pandemic. Let’s hope that this provides a kick-start toward equitable health care, particularly for the underserved population in our society. A right to quality health care should be a basic human right for all.
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