COVID-19 has exposed interconnectedness and health care inequities
The more than year-long COVID-19 pandemic has stressed healthcare systems, demonstrated how interconnected the world is, and shined a light on existing inequities.
“Infectious disease shows that if anybody is at risk, we are all at risk,” said Dr. Eric Gordon Bing, a professor of global health at SMU. “We’re totally connected whether we would like to be so or not.”
Speaking during a recent Social Venture Partners Dallas panel discussion, Bing identified “science and solidarity” as the most critical factors in controlling the pandemic.
“Some of the best examples of what can and should be done have actually come from many smaller countries,” he said.
Bing praised nations who mobilized their populations with clear, consistent messages of following the science, social distancing, and contact tracing.
“If you think of where we need to be with COVID, it really is preventing these illnesses, not playing catch up as we treat them,” he said.
“The U.S. response has had some successes also. Infectious disease shows that if anybody is at risk, we are all at risk.”Dr. Eric Gordon Bing
Bing cited Operation Warp Speed, a public-private partnership initiated by the U.S. government to facilitate and speed up the development, manufacturing, and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines.
“That really is something that has not only, I think, stimulated the development of the very fast response to vaccine development here in the United States, but also has stimulated development abroad, so I think we’ll all benefit from that,” he said.
Parkland Health and Hospital System CEO Dr. Fred Cerise noted that gaps in access to care have become more evident during the pandemic.
“In our health system today, there is good access to care for probably about 80% of the population, and then it gets tougher when you start getting to … people on Medicaid and the uninsured, which is a big part of our business,” Cerise said.
Texas has the highest uninsured rate in the country and has not expanded Medicaid, he said.
“A lot of times in the U.S., your access to healthcare is a factor of geography,” Cerise said. “We know the data show that people that are insured have better health outcomes and better access to care, they have better outcomes when they do get sick, and there’s a lot of studies that show that, and so the more we can do to get people coverage, the better.”
Vaccine distribution also exposes disparities, he said. “What we’ve seen not only in Dallas, but around the country, is disproportionate uptake among white individuals and a lower uptake among Hispanic and Black and other minority populations.”
It’s not all bad news for Dallas, though.
“We’re fortunate in Dallas that we have a strong safety net, and we get a great deal of support from the Dallas community, both public support and philanthropic support,” Cerise said. “That allows us to do the kind of stuff, you know, the vaccine effort that we’ve been able to do and the staff that we have.”
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