This post was originally published on Michigan Chronicle
By Sherri Kolade
One hundred million.
That’s how many COVID cases have cropped up around the United States since March 2020 with a total number of deaths of over 1 million, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Many people are well aware that many Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) members of the collective community bore the brunt of these statistics made real with higher death rates because of poverty and healthcare inequality.
According to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study, Blacks, Latinos and Native Americans are dying from COVID-19 nearly three times the rate of white people and these groups are still dying at a higher rate, especially senior citizens – one of the most vulnerable population groups.
Wayne County was most impacted by the virus and in Detroit, Black people represented over 75 percent of known COVID-19 diagnoses by race and nearly 90 percent of deaths.
“As a society and community in the United States, we basically have arrived at the place where we are learning to live with the pandemic,” said Bridget Hurd, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan’s vice president of inclusion and diversity, chief diversity officer and Michigan COVID-19 Task Force on Racial Disparities member. “However, there is still a pandemic because there are still nearly 400 people dying every day because of COVID-19, and in Michigan, we are averaging just over 2,000 cases of the coronavirus per day. In Detroit, the numbers are ticking up.”
Other health issues have staggering statistics, too.
Black people worldwide have rates of high blood pressure that are on par with white people, however in the United States the difference reveals that 41 percent of African Americans have high blood pressure in comparison to 27 percent of white Americans, WebMD reported.
Black adults in the United States are also 60 percent more likely than white adults to be diagnosed with diabetes, according to reports.
Not one to rest on their laurels in finding solutions, a new Midwest equity-health-based coalition recently unveiled a strategy to develop answers to inequitable systems that create more roadblocks to accessibility.
The Midwest Health Equity Coalition was recently established by a diverse group of mission-aligned health systems, a Medicare Advantage health plan, a company that provides healthcare analytics solutions, the association for community health centers in Illinois, key figures in health policy and additional health partners. The alliance will work as a group of experts devoted to finding best practices that may be used nationally to reduce racial health disparities among underprivileged seniors in Indiana, Michigan, and Illinois.
The coalition is the brainchild of Dr. Eric E. Whitaker, founder and executive chairman of Zing Health and former director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, and Andy Slavitt, healthcare advisor and former administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
Initial coalition membership includes Sinai Chicago, Illinois Primary Health Care Association and CareJourney. Additional key partners will be announced in the next few months.
“The coalition is committed to addressing inequities in healthcare and reducing disease burden in Black communities,” said Slavitt. “Our goal is to ensure underserved communities receive the preventative services and quality care they need and deserve to improve health outcomes.”
Whitaker told the Michigan Chronicle recently that the Midwest Health Equity Coalition came about because there are many different health systems and other entities “doing great work” in health equity but more could be done collectively to find answers to rising BIPOC-related health issues like facing higher COVID cases, diabetes, hypertension and other issues.
“They’re doing it [finding solutions] in their small part of the world and no one knows that this work is going on,” Whitaker said. “One aspect of the Coalition is to really to shine a light on promising models that can improve diabetes, hypertension and behavioral health. … The other piece of it is really coming together jointly with these different health systems and health associations, part of the Coalition to break new ground in terms of developing clinical models that can be impactful.”
“Equity gaps in care and access disproportionately impact Black and Brown communities, resulting in a higher prevalence of chronic care and racial disparities in health outcomes,” Whitaker said. “This coalition will identify, support and shine a light on innovative and cost-effective ways that front-line healthcare providers deliver preventative care to seniors — in particular, Medicare-eligible and disabled people of color. The goal is to ultimately drive better care so that all people can attain the services they need, regardless of race, disability or socioeconomic status.”
The coalition’s top aims include researching the societal factors that increase the likelihood that patients may develop chronic illnesses and have trouble controlling them. To increase the quality and accessibility of care, the coalition’s study findings will be utilized to pinpoint individuals who might profit from home-based services or social and community assistance.
In 2023, the group will present its preliminary conclusions and suggestions for resolving healthcare disparities.
From identifying best practices, driving Medicare policy changes, and improving access to preventative health care among Medicare-eligible and disabled seniors of color, the Coalition will reduce racial health disparities among underserved seniors while looking at best medical practices that can be replicated across the country.
Quality care for diabetes and other conditions can be challenging in communities with limited practitioners or primary care physicians who may not be acquainted with disease management issues. The coalition is working on initiatives that include assistance in getting necessary appointments, transportation and social services to help manage these conditions. Additional enhancements include benefits such as free insulin and no-cost continuous glucose monitoring to eligible seniors, irrespective of their ability to pay.
The coalition will report its initial findings and recommendations for addressing inequities in healthcare in 2023.
Senior Writer Donald James contributed to this report.
What are social determinants of health? The World Health Organization defines them as the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work and age.
The primary purpose of the entire health care industry—doctors and nurses, hospitals, walk-in clinics, insurance companies and others—is to make sure people stay healthy, and to provide the best possible care when they are not.
But staying healthy isn’t just a matter of seeing your doctor regularly and taking the right medications. Our health is also determined by how we live: what we eat, how much we exercise, even where we live and the extent of our local support systems.
These factors are collectively known as social determinants of health (SDOH) and include:
- Education access and quality
- Neighborhood and physical environment
- Economic stability
- Community and social context
- Health care access and quality
Efforts to improve health outcomes have historically focused on medical interventions. However, health care systems increasingly recognize that addressing social determinants of health is just as critical to overcoming health disparities and improving care outcomes for all.
Content provided by Priority Health