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Readout of the Sixth Covid-19 Health Equity Task Force Meeting

On Friday, July 30, COVID-19 Health Equity Chair Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, held the sixth COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force meeting to consider interim recommendations addressing future pandemic preparedness.

Dr. Nunez-Smith opened the meeting by recognizing the current turning point in the narrative of this pandemic. “Notable success has been achieved--in the development and distribution of multiple effective vaccines.  Hundreds of millions of doses administered safely.  Over 80% of our elders protected now from the worst of it.  But important and necessary work remains. We can, each one of us, make personal choices and collective decisions that can get us all safely to the other side of this pandemic sooner. What this pandemic has made abundantly clear is that social policy is health policy.  We need a “health in all policies” strategy as we think about investments now that will reap benefit over generations. This is our work.  The re-imagining of a different and better post-pandemic reality.”

Task Force members heard from four subject matter experts. Lori Tremmel Freeman, the CEO for the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO), and Dr. Michael Fraser, the CEO for the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO), spoke on behalf of public health agencies and local health departments of the United States. Dr. Gerald E. Harmon, the President of the American Medical Association (AMA), and Dr. David J. Skorton, the President and CEO of the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), spoke to advancing health and equity through the work of national healthcare associations.

Task Force Members discussed and voted favorably on interim recommendations. These included but were not limited to:

  • Exploring strategies that meet local and regional staffing needs during pandemic response.
  • Expanding adequate and evidence-based healthcare access and funding infrastructure to treat patients in congregate settings.
  • Establishing and adjusting national standards as well as strategically target funding for water, sewage, and air quality to where it’s needed, based on data from reliable equity indicators.
  • Establishing consistent communication to educate the public about personal protective equipment (PPE), therapeutics and testing using science-based, non-political sources to ensure the message is clear, credible, consistent, and adapted to the cultural context of marginalized populations.
  • Ensuring adequate funding for the planning process, steady-state collaboration, and preparedness exercises that are centered on equity at every level of government.
  • Investing in national special pathogen preparedness and response; specifically, in data sharing solutions and data capabilities as the new care delivery network is stood up.
  • Creating standardized expectations around data infrastructure, and disaggregated data collection, including incentives to collect, report and use disaggregated data.

Dr. Nunez-Smith closed the meeting with remarks on future pandemic preparedness. “We must strive toward a new post-pandemic reality—and not return to our “normal” policies and practices –– in housing, nutrition, education, healthcare, employment, and beyond–– those have failed too many, and have made minoritized, marginalized, communities the most vulnerable to the tragedies of COVID-19.”

To watch the full recording of the sixth COVID-19 Health Task Force Meeting, please use the following links:

The next COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force meeting is tentatively scheduled for Thursday, September 30th. Stay up-to-date by subscribing to e-mail updates.

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