For immediate release -- June 18, 2020
For media: Download this media advisory and an Executive Summary as a PDF:
New Haven, CT – The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed stark differences in how Connecticut residents are able to access the resources they need to maintain good health. These health disparities are rooted in broader inequities in education, economic stability, nutrition, housing, health care, and social context, all of which must be addressed in order to help communities to recover from the pandemic and promote resilience, according to a new report from DataHaven.
The new report, titled “Towards Health Equity in Connecticut: The Role of Social Inequality and the Impact of COVID-19” (click here to visit the main report page) offers an in-depth analysis of the factors underlying widespread health inequities in the state, such as discrimination, poverty, and access to community resources. Among the most pronounced results of these are the gaps in life expectancy, where people born in neighborhoods just a few miles apart may see life expectancy gaps of up to 20 years. The report is available for free online at ctdatahaven.org/healthequity.
"Never has the DataHaven report on health equity in our state been more timely,” said Sten Vermund, Dean of the Yale School of Public Health. “The documentation of how social inequalities drive adverse health care outcomes is stark, reminding us that social determinants of disease are the strongest drivers in Connecticut of who lives and who dies.”
The report focuses on five social determinants of health: Education & Economic Stability, Nutrition & Hunger, Housing & the Physical Environment, Health Care Coverage & Affordability, and the Social Context of Health Care. Each of these categories draws on relevant indicators from a wide range of data sources, including DataHaven’s live interviews with over 32,000 randomly-selected individuals across Connecticut. An executive summary is attached.
Indicators throughout the report reveal that social inequality has created a chasm between Connecticut residents with access to resources that are instrumental in maintaining health—economic opportunity, healthy living conditions, safe neighborhoods, and medical care—and those without the same resources.
COVID-19’s disparate impact on different demographics has thrust health inequity into the spotlight. However, these disparities pre-date the pandemic. Barriers to health disproportionately impact people of color, low-income individuals, people experiencing homelessness, women, the elderly, and people with disabilities. These are some of the same groups that have faced the most severe cases of illness and death from COVID-19.
Unequal access to health care providers, insurance coverage, or COVID-19 testing resources are just the beginning. Even before an individual requires medical attention, their likelihood of being exposed to the virus and getting sick are tightly linked to social factors like food and housing insecurity, discrimination in the health care system, pre-existing comorbidities—often resulting from financial insecurity, working conditions requiring close contact with many people and other obstacles to social distancing.
“The racial and ethnic health disparities that are so clear during this pandemic reflect longstanding disparities in health outcomes and access to resources that cannot be separated from the impact of racism and discrimination,” said Patricia Baker, president and CEO of the Connecticut Health Foundation, a funder of the new report. “It is critical that as we work to eliminate disparities, we recognize and address the many ways that racism shapes health outcomes and influences the systems and institutions we all rely on for health and well-being. This report provides important context for everyone working to respond to COVID-19 and underscores the importance of data on race and ethnicity to identify disparities.”
This report offers actionable recommendations for mitigating health disparities by addressing social disparities, such as expanding insurance coverage; closing gaps in educational opportunities beginning in youth; increasing economic opportunities and access to food, housing, and comprehensive social services; and reducing discrimination in employment, health care, policing, wealth building, and urban planning. To target communities most affected by the legacy of discrimination, these policies should be designed and executed in collaboration with community-based organizations. These measures alone will not end the devastation of COVID-19—that will require continued work—but reducing social inequality can alleviate the pandemic’s burden on the most vulnerable Connecticut populations and boost community resilience.
“Connecticut must take corrective action on the policies and practices that have led to the social inequities documented in this new report,” said Mark Abraham, Executive Director of DataHaven. “These are more important than ever to monitor through a health equity lens, as the data about Connecticut’s recovery as a whole can otherwise hide how conditions may be worsening for groups that are impacted by racism and other forms of oppression.”
“The new DataHaven report is a vital tool. The COVID-19 pandemic and recent community stresses highlight the need to continue to address health inequities among communities of color,” said Maritza Bond, Director of the New Haven Health Department.
“Social inequities erect barriers to health for people of color in Connecticut,” said Karen Siegel, Director of Policy at Health Equity Solutions, an organization that promotes equal access to health in Connecticut. “This report points to the need to mobilize community health workers to connect their communities with the social, health, and economic services needed to weather the pandemic and long recovery period ahead.”
“In our society, racism is a virus too. The new DataHaven report reinforces that we cannot address the consequences of COVID-19 without treating the symptoms of this much older and more resistant affliction, said Mendi Blue, Chief Community Impact Officer at Fairfield County’s Community Foundation. “Fairfield County’s Community Foundation is doubling down on our commitment to achieving equity, and explicitly acknowledging that health inequity is overwhelmingly correlated with race. We cannot close opportunity gaps without facing this reality and targeting our funding, capacity building, and other resources towards racial justice. We are committed to this complex, sometimes uncomfortable, and transformative work.”
About DataHaven: DataHaven is a New Haven-based non-profit organization with a 25-year history of public service to Connecticut communities. Its mission is to empower people to create thriving communities by collecting and ensuring access to data on well-being, equity, and quality of life. Learn more at ctdatahaven.org.