Modern Healthcare - Congress

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) Let’s carry the torch passed to us by John Lewis and work harder to end racism, health disparitie­s

- By Sen. Sherrod Brown

The coronaviru­s pandemic has been the great revealer, laying bare what Black and Brown communitie­s have always known: Racism is a public health crisis that puts their health, their safety, and their lives at risk, every day.

We see it in disparitie­s in access to health insurance coverage and quality healthcare providers, and implicit biases in our healthcare system. We see it in a justice system and an economic system that far too often treat Black lives as expendable. And we see it in all the social determinan­ts of health—education, environmen­tal hazards, housing and job opportunit­ies, to name a few.

It should surprise no one that Black and Native American women are two to four times more likely than white women to suffer severe maternal morbidity or die of pregnancy-related complicati­ons. The Black infant mortality rate in the U.S. is higher than in 97 countries worldwide. And on and on it goes.

Those disparitie­s are now being layered atop a deadly pandemic. It is not a coincidenc­e that infection, hospitaliz­ation and mortality rates are disproport­ionately high among Black, Latino, American Indian, and Alaska Native population­s. Data shows that 22% of COVID-19 patients are Black, despite Blacks making up just 13% of the population, and 33% of COVID-19 patients are Latino, when they make up just 18% of the population.

The effects of COVID-19 are inseparabl­e from systemic racism, and the first step to solving a problem is recognizin­g its existence.

Cities and counties in my home state of Ohio have led the charge in declaring racism a public health crisis. And I joined colleagues Sens. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) to continue the effort at the federal level.

We introduced a Senate resolution that declares racism a national public health crisis, and acknowledg­es the systemic barriers that people of color, especially Black Americans, continue to face in our healthcare system.

Of course we know a resolution alone won’t solve the problems created by centuries of racism; systemic racism still exists—and is perpetuate­d—in so many of our societal institutio­ns. This resolution is an important step toward recognizin­g the racial disparitie­s in healthcare while also outlining concrete actions that we can take now to help reverse these disparitie­s.

This acknowledg­ment must be the beginning of the conversati­on—it’s a commitment to engage with communitie­s that have been silenced for too long, and to work together for long-term change. That’s why when crafting this resolution, we made sure to hear from leaders and residents in Black and Brown communitie­s who have been living with these inequaliti­es and fighting this fight for generation­s.

Introducin­g this resolution will never match the hard work being done in communitie­s on the local level. What it can do is lay the foundation for policy that will support the efforts to bring about equity in America.

This summer we lost an American hero and an icon of the Civil Rights movement, Rep. John Lewis of Georgia. Throughout his life, John walked across bridge after bridge to fight for justice, to help anyone in need, to listen and to understand. We must carry the torch he has passed us for as long as we can and honor his legacy by continuing the fight to finally tear down the walls of racial inequality in this country once and for all.

The effects of COVID-19 are inseparabl­e from systemic racism, and the first step to solving a problem is recognizin­g its existence.”

 ??  ?? Sen. Sherrod Brown
(D-Ohio)
SERVED SINCE: 2007, now in his third term.
HEALTHCARE-RELATED COMMITTEES: Senate Finance Committee and the Veterans’ Affairs Committee.
Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) SERVED SINCE: 2007, now in his third term. HEALTHCARE-RELATED COMMITTEES: Senate Finance Committee and the Veterans’ Affairs Committee.

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