Transforming Health Care Through Evidence and Collaboration
Transforming Health Care Through Evidence and Collaboration

Racism, Inequality & Health

June 2020, Population Health Spotlight

Racism, Inequality & Health

Recent protests against police brutality and the racial disparities in COVID-19 diagnoses and deaths highlight the need to address systemic racism as a public health crisis


COVID-19, Deaths of Despair & Mental Health

In addition to the thousands of deaths from COVID-19, the pandemic is also impacting mental health and could lead to higher rates of substance use.

  • New research by Well Being Trust and the Robert Graham Center for Policy Studies in Family Medicine and Primary Care highlights an increase in “deaths of despair” due to the pandemic and estimates that as many as 75,000 more people will die from drug or alcohol misuse and suicide.
  • To address access challenges during the pandemic, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan is launching a home-based substance abuse treatment program to allow patients to receive virtual treatment, including detoxification, assessment and intensive outpatient care.
  • NIHCM convened experts on a webinar  to discuss the challenges of substance use, treatment and recovery during COVID-19.
  • NIHCM’s webinar on happiness provides insights on the science of well-being and how we can strengthen our own happiness during this time of physical distancing and uncertainty.

Sheltering in place and social distancing has left many older adults feeling isolated and uncertain. To help address these challenges, Independence Blue Cross implemented the “Calls of Kindness” program to connect employee volunteers with seniors to provide comfort and support to those in need.

COVID-19 Underscores the Critical Role of Social Determinants of Health

COVID-19 has disproportionately impacted vulnerable communities while certain social determinants of health, including food security and housing, have been negatively impacted as well. To address these challenges, health plans are working with their communities and supporting programs to assist individuals at risk. 

  • Horizon BCBSNJ announced that it is expanding an existing program that connects community health workers with members with social needs.
  • The Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation announced $25,000 awards to 20 nonprofits across Massachusetts that predominantly serve people of color, rural communities, people experiencing homelessness and other at-risk populations.
  • Anthem Blue Cross has expanded a recently launched home-delivered meal program to address increased food insecurity during the pandemic.

NIHCM produced an infographic and webinar to provide insights on longstanding issues surrounding food insecurity in the United States and how these issues have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

USC Annenberg Center for Health Journalism convened a webinar on child hunger and unmet needs, including insights on the growing crisis and how journalists can better report on the problem.

Continuity of Care & Challenges to Population Health

As the urgency of the pandemic has taken priority in public health, other health and medical issues are not being addressed. Nearly half of adults have skipped or postponed medical care because of COVID-19. 

Recent protests against police brutality and the racial disparities in COVID-19 diagnoses and deaths highlight systemic racism as a public health crisis.