COVID’s Impact on Health Equity and Access to Health & Social Services

What has COVID taught us about addressing health disparities, about needed cross-sector collaboration and how can we better protect the most impacted communities in the next large-scale emergency?

Over the last 21 months, the impacts of COVID-19 have disrupted our nation’s health and social systems in ways previously unimaginable. On January 12 investigators funded through Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s signature research programs shared new research that examines the kind of infrastructure and cross-sector collaboration that improved pandemic response, the factors associated with the disparate impact COVID-19 had on communities of color, and state level public health, housing, education, and other policies initiated in the midst of pandemic.

Organizations across sectors have had to make significant and rapid changes to continue providing services that meet the immediate and increasingly complex needs of their communities. Operating under unstable conditions within the context of this pandemic has introduced barriers that include reductions in workforce, loss in revenue, and complications in providing in-person or virtual services. In addition, the lack of guidance, coordination, and preparedness from local, state, and federal governments means many organizations have had to be reactive rather than proactive. Undergirding all of this is the fact that the pandemic has shined a spotlight on existing inequities in our healthcare, public health, and social systems that are rooted in structural racism.

To build more resilient and equitable communities -- during this pandemic and beyond -- we need to rely on evidence of the many factors that shape health and the policy and system changes with greatest potential impact. 

What are the remaining unanswered questions around how sectors and stakeholders can work together in future national emergencies to protect the health of communities facing disproportionate impacts? 

Watch the recording of the January 12, 2022 webinar to hear more from the investigators at the heart of these efforts: 

  • Aditi Bhanja, MPH, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health 
  • Nadereh Pourat, PhD and Emmeline Chuang, PhD, University of California, Berkeley
  • Julia R. Raifman, ScD, SM, Boston University School of Public Health 

Each shared their learnings on promising innovations to address health inequities and effective stakeholder responses amid a pandemic and beyond, as well as how sectors and stakeholders can work together in future large-scale national emergencies to protect the health and wellbeing of impacted populations. 

View the recording.