Reps. Wild, Clarke Host Discussion on Racial Health Disparities
LEHIGH VALLEY, PA – Yesterday, U.S. Representative Susan Wild (PA-07) hosted a roundtable event to discuss the impact of health care disparities during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. Across the country, COVID-19 has affected Black communities at disproportionate rates from their White counterparts, both in terms of susceptibility to the coronavirus and its health complications and economic challenges as a result of stay-at-home orders.
Wild was joined by Rep. Yvette D. Clarke (NY-09), a member of the Congressional Black Caucus and co-founder of the Congressional Caucus on Black Women and Girls; Phyllis Alexander, Senior Trainer at the National Coalition Building Institute; Brian Lentes, Pennsylvania Department of Health and Governor's COVID-19 Task Force for Health Disparity; Michelle Townsend, Founder of Empowered Living LLC; and Michael Tukeva, President/CEO of Pocono Mountains United Way.
“A system of racial inequality means that too many health crises will disproportionately harm minority communities. And this health crisis is no different,” Wild said. “Just as we’ve seen with issues like Black maternal mortality rates, health disparities across racial lines are deep and they need to be addressed at the highest possible levels. I convened this roundtable because I consider it my obligation to listen, provide as many resources as possible, and take the experiences and expertise of these panelists and constituents back to Washington to elevate their voices.”
Concrete data is largely unavailable on why the health rates are so disparate, but statistics show that these rates are not relegated to COVID-19. With this issue in mind, Wild led an effort last week with more than 50 of her colleagues to set price caps on prescription drugs that treat the medical conditions most adversely affected by this virus, including insulin for diabetes, inhalers for asthma, and medication for heart disease. Right now, we are seeing shortages of life-saving drug supplies, rapid increases in drug prices, significant job losses, and thousands left without health insurance –– and many of those folks are people of color.
“Contrary to popular belief, coronavirus is not the great equalizer,” Clarke said. “The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed our nation’s rampant socioeconomic inequality. This virus has viciously attacked low-income communities and communities of color, bringing the issue of health disparities back to the forefront of our conversations. It is imperative to not only bring awareness to the virus’ impact on communities of color, but to also take action and draft legislation that will help close the health inequity gap in response to this pandemic.”