( ENSPIRE Health and Wellness ) Four Black Healthcare CEOs Publish A Open Letter Asking President Joe Biden To Remedy Disparities In Health Care Among African Americans
ENSPIRE Contributor: Re’Dreyona Walker
CEOs from four national healthcare organizations have called on the Biden administration to remedy the health inequities Black Americans experience throughout their lives. The letter comes on the heels of a new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report showing Black males lost three years of life expectancy due to COVID-19 in six months, compared to 0.8 years for White males.
In an open letter to President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and members of their national healthcare team, leaders of the American Diabetes Association, Black Women’s Health Imperative, Easterseals, and March of Dimes said the four service organizations’ programs bear witness to the healthcare challenges Black Americans receive starting at birth.
“We urge you to prioritize solutions to remedy these persistent health care inequities within the Black community that has only worsened during the pandemic,” the CEOs write in the open letter, published in The Hill, Politico, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post. The full letter is available on the Easterseals’ website.
The COVID-19 pandemic underscores the nation’s health equity shortcomings. The coronavirus death rate among Blacks is 1.9 times that of whites, the CDC reported last week. The nonprofit leaders applaud Biden’s plans to strengthen the Affordable Care Act and to protect Medicaid. Access to affordable, quality health care, plus intervention and prevention programs, they say, “promise to change the trajectory for communities of color.”
“We believe it is critical to raise health equity as a shared concern as the Biden administration addresses issues within the healthcare system,” said Easterseals President and CEO Angela F. Williams, who organized the statement. “Blacks often experience life and negotiate the healthcare system with greater challenges. We are all too familiar with this given that we lead organizations with similar missions and are regularly called on to use our positions to support the Black community and help shape a more equitable society.
“As one of the nation’s largest nonprofit healthcare organizations, Easterseals provides a range of services for children and adults with disabilities, seniors and veterans,” she continued. “One in 4 Americans today are living with a disability, and of these individuals, 1 in 4 is Black. That gives us a wide and diverse view of health equity.
“With such a broad perspective, we see disturbing trends in healthcare parity that must be addressed,” Williams continued. Black children are diagnosed later than their peers with developmental or intellectual disabilities. Black adults with disabilities find it harder to afford, access or advocate for care and, as they age, experience worse outcomes from a range of chronic diseases. COVID-19 has compounded these health inequities across generations of Black Americans.”
The CEOs believe that political action can better the state of the Black community’s social determinants of health — unfair and avoidable conditions the World Health Organization cites as mostly responsible for health inequities — and remove systemic barriers to racial equity.
This year, Easterseals established its Black Child Fund, supporting philanthropic giving to close gaps in childcare, education and healthcare equity that have widened in the pandemic. It also introduced a new advocacy program, All In, to guide employer progress on equity in the workplace, where lower wages contribute to health insecurity for workers with disabilities.
Biden and Harris have campaigned on pledges to advance affordable health insurance, quality care and a less complex system that ensures healthcare rights. Biden’s Nov. 7 victory speech made a callout to equity issues: “We must make the promise of the country real for everybody — no matter their race, their ethnicity, their faith, their identity or their disability.”
Williams was joined in signing the open letter by American Diabetes Association CEO Tracey D. Brown, Black Women’s Health Imperative president and CEO Linda Goler Blount and March of Dimes president and CEO Stacey D. Stewart.
To learn more about the letter initiative, please visit the Easterseals’ website.