While it has been known for years there are wide divides between the access to healthcare in America prior to COVID-19, the pandemic laid bare these massive inequities. COVID statistics disproportionately impacted minority and low-income communities because of they did not have the same access to care or the same level of service as white and more affluent communities. This trend was consistently seen across the country and medical societies highlighted these issues at their conferences during and post-pandemic. These calls to action led many health organizations to change the way they do business to try and address these issues.
Not only were the issues of race and health inequality magnified by COVID in 2020, but that same year the Black Lives Matter movement came to the forefront of national news on the heels of several high-profile police murders of unarmed Black people.
During the pandemic, Mass General Brigham in Boston was one of many healthcare organizations that created policies and programs to address these issues. Its "United Against Racism" diversity, equity, and inclusion policy statement was backed by appointing staff members to serve as chiefs for diversity and equity in each department.
The Mass General Brigham statement outlines that systemic racism is a public health issue that impacts the hospital's patients, workforce and the communities they serve. MGH is now taking action across the health system to dismantle racism and the barriers inside and outside of the hospital walls to provide better medical care and equity for everyone in the community.
"Mass General really has taken a hard stand on its United Against Racism Campaign, and we all recognized that for many reasons, 2020 was a devastating year," explained Malissa J. Wood, MD, associate chief of cardiology for diversity and equity, and co-director, Corrigan Women’s Heart Health Program, Massachusetts General Hospital.
She explains the MGH program in the video above and the article below.
"Once our eyes had been opened, you cannot shut them. I think COVID shined a light on inequities in communities. And when we looked at people infected with COVID and saw they were more likely to be Black or Hispanic," Wood explained. "We also saw a lot of these patients had established, but undiagnosed, heart disease, or risks for heart disease. We also realized that these patients really had not been seen in our health systems before and only started coming in when they were so sick that they really needed to be on a ventilator. So I think it really made every one of us take a hard look at the patients in our communities and start looking at our own data dashboards and we started asking where are these patients and how can we make our services more available?"