'Race and place matter a lot for health outcomes,' Biden health equity task force chair says

Tackling racial disparities in healthcare during the COVID-19 pandemic is challenging work and will take a multifaceted approach, Marcella Nunez-Smith, MD, chair of President Joe Biden's COVID-19 health equity task force, said during a recent New York Times interview. 

Dr. Nunez-Smith, associate dean for health equity research at the Yale School of Medicine in New Haven, Conn., has been chosen to chair the task force, which will make recommendations to the president related to equitable allocation of pandemic resources and relief funds. The task force will also provide recommendations about outreach to underserved and minority populations, as well as other response and recovery efforts. 

During the interview, published Feb. 11, Dr. Nunez-Smith discussed her short-term and long-term goals in addressing racial disparities in healthcare.

She told the publication, "We're charged with rapid response recommendations, and then paving the way for equity in the recovery. We talk a lot about vaccines. But we can't forget about everything else. We think about front-line essential workers and others who still have challenges in terms of having inadequate protection in the workplace. Access to testing is also uneven. It's exciting to see new technologies emerge, but we also have to make sure that everybody can benefit from all of the scientific discoveries."

Dr. Nunez-Smith was also asked about the absence of data on race and ethnicity for vaccine recipients.

"I often say, 'Race and place matter a lot for health outcomes in our country.' So, we think about things like ZIP codes, about areas with socially vulnerable geographic markers, and about bringing in our rural communities as well," she told the Times. "The idea is for us to be able to have a tool kit of different metrics that we are able to use and follow. We are never going to hang our hat entirely on one data point."

Still, she said she is "optimistic that we are going to get to a place where we are able to execute in a data-driven way."

Read the full interview here


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