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Moving Towards Health Equity: Addressing Systemic Racism and Social Determinants of Health in Health

Health equity is the concept that all individuals should have equal access to healthcare and the opportunity to achieve good health. Unfortunately, the current state of health equity in many countries is far from ideal. Historically, marginalized communities, such as people of color and low-income individuals, have experienced significant health disparities due to systemic racism, poverty, and lack of access to healthcare.

The Impact of Systemic Racism and Social Determinants of Health

In recent years, there has been a growing awareness of health equity issues and the impact of systemic racism on healthcare outcomes. A National Academy of Medicine (NAM) study found that people of color experience poorer health outcomes than white individuals across various conditions, including heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. The NAM report highlights the role of social determinants of health, such as poverty, education, and housing, in perpetuating these disparities. Additionally, implicit biases among healthcare providers can contribute to unequal treatment and outcomes for people of color.

The Urgent Need for Health Equity in the Context of COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has also highlighted the urgent need for health equity. Studies have shown that communities of color have been disproportionately affected by the virus, with higher rates of hospitalization and death than white individuals. The pandemic has exacerbated existing health disparities and underscored the importance of addressing social determinants of health to achieve health equity. According to a report by the Commonwealth Fund, addressing health equity in the context of COVID-19 will require targeted interventions to support communities hit the hardest by the pandemic.

Steps Toward Achieving Health Equity

To address health equity, healthcare providers and policymakers are taking steps to improve access to care and address social determinants of health. For example, the Affordable Care Act includes provisions to expand access to health insurance and preventive services, which can help to reduce health disparities. Additionally, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services have launched initiatives to address social determinants of health, such as the Accountable Health Communities model, which aims to improve health outcomes by addressing social needs, such as food insecurity and housing instability.


In conclusion, while there is still much work to achieve health equity, there is growing awareness of the problem, and healthcare providers and policymakers are taking steps to address it. The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the urgency of this work and highlighted the importance of addressing social determinants of health. By working together, we can create a healthcare system that is truly equitable and provides high-quality care for all individuals.


  1. National Academy of Medicine. (2017). Communities in Action: Pathways to Health Equity. Retrieved from

  2. Yancy, C. W. (2020). COVID-19 and African Americans. Jama, 323(19), 1891-1892. doi:10.1001/jama.2020.6548

  3. Commonwealth Fund. (2021). Health Equity and COVID-19: Tracking and Addressing Disparities. Retrieved from

  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Health Equity. (2022). Retrieved from

  5. National Academy of Medicine. Achieving Health Equity: From Root Causes to Fair Outcomes. (2019). Retrieved from

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