- The American Hospital Association on Monday condemned what they called the “senseless killing of an unarmed black man in Minneapolis,” referring to George Floyd, who died more than a week ago after a police officer held his knee on Floyd’s neck for more than eight minutes. AHA said the group’s vision is a “society of healthy communities, where ALL individuals reach their highest potential for health.”
- Medical societies, providers and other healthcare organizations weighed in to support peaceful protests, especially as the COVID-19 pandemic shines a light on racial inequities in access to healthcare and job security in America.
- Health officials also expressed worry that the protest gatherings could further spread of the novel coronavirus. Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz said hospitals in the state could be overwhelmed. And some COVID-19 testing sites have been shut down for safety reasons, further exacerbating concerns.
Since protests and occasionally violent police confrontations in recent days were sparked by Floyd’s death, providers have taken to social media with notes of support and pictures of themselves taking a knee in their scrubs under the hashtag #WhiteCoatsForBlackLives.
The American Medical Association responded to ongoing unrest Friday, saying the harm of police violence is “elevated amidst the remarkable stress people are facing amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Board Chair Jesse Ehrenfeld and Patrice Harris, AMA’s first African American woman to be president, continued: “This violence not only contributes to the distrust of law enforcement by marginalized communities but distrust in the larger structure of government including for our critically important public health infrastructure. The disparate racial impact of police violence against Black and Brown people and their communities is insidiously viral-like in its frequency, and also deeply demoralizing, irrespective of race/ethnicity, age, LGBTQ or gender.”
The nascent research and data from the pandemic in the U.S. have shown people of color are more likely to die from COVID-19 than white people. The reasons behind that are myriad and complex, but many can be traced back to systemic inequality in social services and the healthcare system.
Payers, providers and other healthcare organizations have attempted to address these issues through programs targeting social determinants of health like stable housing, food security and access to transportation.
But despite these efforts over several years to recognize and document the disparities, they have persisted and in some cases widened, Samantha Artiga, director of the Disparities Policy Project at the Kaiser Family Foundation, noted in a blog post Monday.
“Health disparities, including disparities related to COVID-19, are symptoms of broader underlying social and economic inequities that reflect structural and systemic barriers and biases across sectors,” she wrote.
Providers have waded into political issues affecting them before, including gun violence. Several organizations also objected to the Trump administration’s decision to cut ties with the World Health Organization in the midst of the pandemic.
The American Public Health Association in late 2018 called law enforcement violence a public health issue.