Opinion: After COVID-19, we need more focus on health equity

September 16, 2022

The experience with COVID-19 over the last two and a half years has taught health care policymakers a number of important lessons. One of the most significant is the clear evidence that, notwithstanding efforts in recent years to increase access to quality health care for all people, the health equity gap remains.

And that gap was significant during COVID-19. The rates of test-confirmed COVID-19 diagnosis and exposure, hospitalization and death in New York City all show substantial racial and ethnic disparities. However, the gap was not limited to COVID-19. Those outcomes reflect preexisting differences in social determinants of health – things like education, jobs and neighborhood characteristics – that together result in poorer outcomes generally for impacted populations.

Of course, it is one thing to identify a problem, but it’s quite another to come up with a solution. And because of all the moving parts, the health equity puzzle is complex. For a long time, policymakers focused on coverage, the thought being that the fundamental problem of health equity was that some populations had no way to pay for care. And all of that has had a positive impact. But it has not solved the issue of health care disparity. Certainly, coverage issues linger. But evidence also suggests that even where coverage is available, some people still are not getting the care they need.

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