COVID-19 and Equity in Health Care

The following letter was sent to US and PA government representatives and officials to address health care equity issues during the current pandemic.

Dear Community Leaders:

As the United States and Southwestern Pennsylvania grapple with increasing infections and death from the COVID-19 pandemic, the Pittsburgh Business Group on Health (PBGH) recognizes that there are a great many challenges facing all of us. Among the biggest of those is the challenge of ensuring equity in treatment and care of the disease among Americans of different races, ages, and socio-economic statuses.

Data on the rates of infection, death rates, and other factors in spread are beginning to emerge, and these data are troubling when viewed through an equity lens.

While data for Pennsylvania are not yet available, government and media reports from other areas with high rates of disease and infection, including New York and Michigan, tend to show that people of color, particularly African Americans, are disproportionately infected and die from COVID-19.

PBGH, on behalf of its member businesses, urges you to take action to ensure that accurate, reliable information is disseminated to communities of color and those that are underserved, particularly information on COVID-19 symptoms and testing, the importance of social distancing in stopping the spread of the disease, and current guidance and best practices for persons who must go into public areas. This information is essential, because we know that persons of color are less able to work from home, and over-represented in essential employment areas, like health care and key services.

It is not yet possible to understand the causes underlying this initial data, but it will be important for us to track and analyze these statistics so that we can learn from them going forward.

Pittsburgh Business Group on Health, a not-for-profit organization that empowers the business community to get the most value, access, and quality in healthcare, relies on data so that members can make sound decisions. It is important that, as we move forward from this pandemic crisis, data is the foundation of decision-making going forward. We know from data that communities of color have been underserved by health care providers and institutions, historically. Whether that reality contributes to the seemingly high rate of infection and death in this current outbreak is yet to be determined, but we urge you to consider all aspects and factors as data is evaluated and studied.

Most importantly, PBGH urges you to act to protect the health and welfare of all who are at elevated risk, including communities of color. By doing so, you will be saving lives.

Sincerely yours,

Jessica Brooks, CEO
Pittsburgh Business Group on Health

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