Two pioneers in battling health disparities — former U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher, MD, PhD, and Affordable Care Act expert Daniel Dawes, JD — offer lessons from history and a path forward to help heal our nation.
“David Satcher, MD, PhD: The pandemic has highlighted disparities in access to care. It also has highlighted that some groups have more health conditions like hypertension and obesity, so when COVID-19 hits them, it hits them harder. COVID has attacked the points of vulnerability in our society.
During the pandemic, African Americans have lost about three years of life expectancy [while White individuals have lost 1.2 years]. We published a study in 2005 that found that in 2000, 83,000 more African Americans died than would have if this country had equity in health care. Now we’ve added to that lack of equity.”
“Daniel Dawes, JD: We’ve actually had a quadruple pandemic: COVID-19, the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and others and the racial reckoning, a mental health crisis, and an economic one.
For a lot of people, the effects of the pandemic were quite an eye-opener, but I’m not surprised at all, because there are long-standing inequities that this country has never really tackled.”