COVID-19 has laid bare racial disparities in the United States health system. For example, COVID-19 cases among Native Hawaiian / Pacific Islanders are up to 2.5 times higher as compared to whites. Similarly, the rate of COVID-19 related deaths among Black Americans and American Indian/Alaskan Natives are twice as high as whites. A recent PhRMA paper finds that gaps in information on race, ethnicity and health are barriers to achieving health equity for many groups.
While many have rightly expressed alarm or surprise at these disparities in light of COVID-19, the sad truth is the alarm bell has been ringing for decades. It has been 35 years since the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released the landmark Report of the Secretary’s Task Force on Black and Minority Health (Heckler Report), which documented health disparities and excess deaths for minority populations. Since then, great medical and technological milestones have been achieved, but the gap in health outcomes remains. Systemic racism has persisted, including the devaluing of Black and Brown lives. It affects everything from the quality of treatments patients receive, to the types of data that get collected, to the actions that policymakers are willing to take.
The challenges might seem insurmountable for one organization to take on, but PhRMA is committed to being a catalyst for change and improvement. We know that to begin overcoming health disparities, researchers, policymakers and providers need actionable data that demonstrate how and why people of color experience worse health outcomes than their white counterparts.
PhRMA is releasing a series of papers that will identify:
- Challenges in collecting the types of data that are essential to improving health disparities in the United States.
- Solutions that have been identified, but face barriers to implementation.
- Actionable steps that policymakers can take to knock down those barriers.
PhRMA has decided to address these issues head on and will support others willing to do the same. Read our first paper in the series, “Gaps in Available Data Exacerbate Health Disparities and Create Barriers to Change.” To learn more about PhRMA’s equity efforts, visit phrma.org/equity.
Emily Donaldson is a senior director for policy and research at PhRMA, working with PhRMA’s state and federal policy teams to improve patient access to medicines and encourage alignment between state and federal policies. Prior to joining PhRMA, she worked for the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association focusing on state health policy. Having recently moved to Tokyo, Japan, Emily enjoys exploring and learning about her new home with her husband and two sons.