The AHA is committed to ensuring that all people, regardless of background or zip code, have equitable access to quality health care. As the COVID-19 pandemic evolves, recent reports indicate that communities of color across the nation are experiencing higher rates of COVID-19 infections and deaths than other groups. For example, in Chicago, according to some reports, African Americans account for 44% of all COVID-19 positive test results and 56% of recorded virus-related deaths, even though they constitute only 32% of the city's population.

During these unprecedented times, hospitals and health systems continue to provide care for our most vulnerable communities by addressing social needs, educating on COVID-19 risks, and collaborating with community organizations to expand these efforts beyond their walls. As our health care heroes continue the fight against COVID-19, the AHA is working to ensure hospitals and health systems get the essential tools and resources they need. To that end, we have developed resources and advocated on behalf of equity in our nation’s health care system, including:

  • Letter urging HHS to address COVID-19 disparities. The AHA, along with American Medical Association and American Nurses Association recently urged the Department of Health and Human Services to identify and address disparities in the federal response to COVID-19, including increasing the availability of testing, ensuring access to equitable treatment and disseminating timely, relevant, culturally appropriate and culturally sensitive public health information. As part of the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act signed into law last week, the HHS Secretary will be required to issue a report on the number of positive COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths disaggregated by race, ethnicity, sex, geographic region and other relevant factors within 180 days of enactment. 
  • 5 Actions to Promote Health Equity during the COVID-19 Pandemic. This resource highlights steps hospitals can and are taking to address disparities that arise during the fight against COVID-19. It includes examples of actions to ensure vulnerable populations are receiving equitable care.
  • Social Needs Awareness: A Key to Addressing Health Inequity During COVID-19. This resource examines the impact of the social determinants of health on patients and communities as they battle the COVID-19 outbreak and shares ideas and case examples to help hospitals address ongoing social needs.
  • Advancing Health Podcast: Hospital and Community Partnership During a Pandemic. In this podcast, Darren Henson, director of operations at AHA's Institute for Diversity and Health Equity, talks with Lena Hatchett, professor at the Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine, about how despite the COVID-19 outbreak, her facility remains committed to a health equity strategy ensuring patients' needs are met through partnerships within a community-driven, multi-sector coalition.

Even though Minority Health Month concluded at the end of April, every day, now more than ever, we recognize the significance in raising awareness and doubling down on efforts to achieve health equity in our nation.

For more information on the collective efforts of the AHA and its Institute for Diversity and Health Equity to address health disparities, visit www.ifdhe.aha.org. For all our COVID-19 resources, visit www.aha.org/covid-19.

Elisa Arespacochaga is vice president of the AHA Physician Alliance and interim executive lead of AHA's Institute for Diversity and Health Equity.

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