COVID-19: Achieving Health Equity
with Amy Hinojosa of the Healthy Equity Collaborative
The COVID-19 pandemic magnified longstanding gaps in health outcomes for underserved communities.
Amy Hinojosa, President and CEO of MANA, A National Latina Organization, joins host Tetiana Anderson representing the Health Equity Collaborative, which was formed in response to the pandemic’s impact on minority populations, to share how it’s working to combat health disparities.
October 01, 2021
Anderson: The COVID-19 pandemic magnified longstanding gaps in health outcomes for underserved communities as the virus has disproportionately impacted minority populations. Hello, and welcome to "Comcast Newsmakers." I'm Tetiana Anderson. A new health collaborative formed as part of the response to COVID-19 impact on marginalized communities, is working to combat health disparities. And Amy Hinojosa, who you may recognize as president and CEO of MANA, a national Latina organization, joins me to talk about the Health Equity Collaborative and its mission to create a more level playing field and combat health disparities. And, Amy, thank you so much for being here.
Hinojosa: It's great to be with you, Tetiana.
Anderson: So COVID not only shone a spotlight immediately on what we generally refer to as underserved communities and the whole issue of health equity, it's one of those things that is lingering. No quick fix seems to be in sight. So who exactly are these communities of people that we are talking about, and what are some of the preventable differences that COVID really helped to uncover?
Hinojosa: Mostly, we're talking about ethnic minority communities, we're talking about poor communities, we're talking about folks who are linguistically disadvantaged and just don't receive adequate information, let alone health care. And so when COVID hit, you didn't have to tell advocates that it was going to be terrible for all of our underserved communities. And so when we look at the social determinants of health and we look at other factors, such as inadequate access to livable environments, inadequate access to healthy foods and vegetables, we just knew that our communities weren't going to be in a place where they could combat the virus adequately. And so as a result, what we started to do as a health equity collaborative in bringing together over 30 national organizations is to really make sure that the federal government's response included all of these social determinants of health as important factors in the solutions process. Because if we didn't solve for these issues that were impacting our local communities, then we were never going to -- we were never going to get the COVID virus under control.
Anderson: So there is clearly a lot of different areas where achieving this health equity has been a challenge for a lot of different people, a lot of different groups. What are some of the sort of big areas that you're working on, and how do you know that those are real problems?
Hinojosa: We know that so many of these issues have historically been issues for our community. So whether it's having high rates of obesity, high rates of heart disease, high rates of other underlying conditions that made the COVID virus so deadly for our communities, we know that we had to make sure that the federal government understood that unless these underlying issues were addressed and that we included these underserved communities in the solutions that we were going in the wrong direction. For example, we had to make sure that attention was paid to getting communities of color into clinical trials. We had to make sure that there were linguistically and culturally appropriate responses that reached our community. And at the end of the day, we wanted to make sure that the lens of equity was applied to all solutions that were being proposed.
Anderson: And, you know, it's not only that. It's creating a diverse health workforce, you know, an equitable response to COVID. So a lot to tackle here. And you're not doing it alone. You're not doing it single handedly. I think that the Health Equity Collaborative partnership list at last check was over 30 members. So who are some of the partners, and what kinds of collaborations are happening?
Hinojosa: So we have over 30 national organizations -- anywhere from my organization MANA, a national Latina organization, to the Black Women's Health Imperative, to even other larger community-facing organizations like the National Consumers League and Us Against Alzheimer's. These different organizations have come together to make sure that we are amplifying each other's messages and voices in the larger community because we know in the advocacy space that our voices resonate. But when we're together, they resonate even louder.
Anderson: Your collaborative really works together to herald the problem of health equity disparities and develop concrete solutions. So what's the importance of all of these groups coming together in this specific way?
Hinojosa: So many of the organizations in our collaborative have been doing health equity work for decades. But what we realized when the COVID pandemic hit was that it was an all-hands-on-deck situation. So as a result, we knew that we had to create consistent messaging to help our community specifically and to make sure that we were amplifying each other's voices so that they would resonate in the halls of Congress.
Anderson: And you mentioned the halls of Congress, but how is the administration as well as Congress reacting to all this messaging that you are putting out there?
Hinojosa: It has been really gratifying both to see the administration and Congress reacting in such a positive way. It's understandable because you need to have direct connection to the communities that are being impacted the hardest to understand, one, what's happening and, two, what the solutions needed are. And so through this process, we've been able to really make sure that the underserved voices are elevated in this conversation.
Anderson: If people want to find out more about the collaborative, what's the website?
Hinojosa: You can visit us at HealthEquityCollaborative.org, where you can see all of our organizations and link to the incredible work that they're doing and see what we're doing with the letters we've sent out to Congress and our blog.
Anderson: Amy Hinojosa with the Health Equity Collaborative, thank you so much for being here.
Hinojosa: Thank you.
Anderson: And thanks to our viewers as well for watching. For more great conversations with leaders in your own community and around the nation, log on to ComcastNewsmakers.com. I'm Tetiana Anderson.