Those who worked in public health before and throughout the coronavirus pandemic weren’t surprised when infections followed the same geographic and socioeconomic patterns as chronic illnesses.
COVID-19 cast a spotlight on inequities that have been around for decades. With that in mind, how can local and state leaders close the gaps on these deadly disparities? What have we learned from the pandemic?
These questions will be topics of discussion Tuesday when the San Antonio Report hosts a panel of experts for the 2021 Medical Forum Series.
Titled “A Local and Statewide Approach Toward Health Equity,” the virtual event will feature Marisa Bono, CEO of Every Texan; Claude Jacob, director of San Antonio Metro Health; and Dr. Lyssa Ochoa, president and CEO of San Antonio Vascular and Endovascular Clinic. The conversation will be moderated by Senior Reporter Iris Dimmick.
In his former role as chief public health officer for the City of Cambridge, Massachusetts, Jacob found a familiar pattern in coronavirus cases.
“We saw a pattern based on race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status,” he recently told the San Antonio Report. “We saw an acceleration of cases based on not just skin color, but their occupation type and their housing type. The patterns that we saw tied to COVID were the same patterns we would see tied to chronic disease, the same patterns that we would see tied to the impact of climate change.”
Ochoa has been practicing vascular surgery in San Antonio since 2011. She found that the number of diabetes-related amputations in San Antonio occur in rates up to three times the statewide rate in some of the city’s most underserved and socioeconomically challenged zip codes — the same areas that have been historically segregated and redlined.
“That’s the inequity: It’s the exact same map,” she said.
One of the best ways to increase access to health care is to increase access to health insurance, Bono said.
“Our state’s uninsured rate is twice the national average,” she said. “We are hyper-focused on the expansion of Medicaid as a solution to that as a simple fix, or a relatively simple fix.”