Access Health CT has published a new, very well-researched description, both quantitative and qualitative, of Connecticut’s health disparities and COVID’s impact. The graphic on page 2 following the lives of two boys, Marcus and Tyler, born on the same day but into very different circumstances, makes the impact tangible. I’ll be using it as a resource often. But more importantly, beyond the piles of data, the report includes feasible, common sense recommendations that will make a difference in the real world.
The report has a few surprises, which is exciting, as surprises are clues to causes and to solutions. Differences between races and ethnic groups are not always predictable, including COVID mortality rates, suggesting community and cultural resources to support.
The role of social determinants is overwhelming and lead to clear recommendations. Their definition is the best I’ve seen – “the material/resource-based advantages or disadvantages that have noticeable impact on a group’s health outcomes.” Connecticut residents that spend more of their income on housing and food have lower life expectancy. Food deserts and medically-underserved areas are concentrated in Black and Hispanic neighborhoods where residents are twice as likely to live in poverty and have four years less life expectancy.
The researchers surveyed both stakeholders from organization leaders and consumers to collect ideas and field test solutions. Be sure to read through to pages 42 and 43 and to the consumer survey starting at page 44, for very specific, common sense, feasible recommendations. Not surprising that the biggest recommendation from both surveys was to reduce the cost of care. “For consumers, the cost of healthcare is unmanageable.” The recommendations reference “partnering” 24 times – everyone needs to be engaged.
The recommendations have a common-sense specificity we haven’t seen much in Connecticut. And Access Health CT is not shifting responsibility to others but stepping up to do their part. The recommendations go beyond calls for more data and community health workers but what we should be doing with the information and resources. It makes clear that we can’t marginalize the problems onto the people who live in underserved communities and those who provide care there. It will take all of us. Hopefully, Access Health CT and other state policymakers, use this report as a starting point to make a difference that lasts well into Connecticut’s post-COVID future.