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COVID-19: What’s equity got to do with it? [George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health]



Editor’s note:  This illustration is a new COVID specific Pair of ACEs tree shown along with the original tree.  The post is by Wendy Ellis, DrPH, MPH the Director of the Building Community Resilience Collaborative and Networks at the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health.

It took less than two months for a virus undetectable to the naked eye to lay bare what lies in plain sight — exposing long-standing inequities, driven by social policies that have created disparities in access to resources. These disparities result in the concentration of poverty and negative health outcomes based on access to supports and buffers that promote health, wealth and prosperity.

Predictably, COVID-19’s disproportionate impact can be measured along the country’s most fragile fault line — race and poverty. Early reports from across the country demonstrate that the COVID-19 pandemic has had an immediate and dramatic impact on communities shaped by historic patterns of racial segregation. Communities where social policies, such as redlining, set in place patterns of poverty, limited access to quality education, and affordable health care. In Chicago, while making up only about 30 percent of the city’s population, African Americans have accounted for 68 percent of all COVID-19 related deaths. In Washington D.C., African-American residents account for 45 percent of the city’s population but nearly 60 percent of the city’s COVID-19 fatalities. The trend is similar everywhere cases are tracked by race. Communities across the country with high chronic disease burdens, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, asthma and obesity — diseases which are tied to racial health disparities — are more vulnerable to serious complications related to COVID-19.

Public policies implemented over the past 400 years, designed with either the explicit intent of racial oppression or willfully ignorant of disparate impacts, have produced negative place-based and class-based outcomes. And as a pandemic sweeps the nation, resulting in the nearly instantaneous loss of millions of jobs and growing — this historical record of inequity is no longer a concern for some people; it is a necessary concern for all.

To read the entire post by Dr. Ellis, click here.


Images (2)
  • 2E6EA11C-283D-46F8-86CC-BC3989180700
  • COVID Pair of ACEs tree

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