It’s been more than a year since COVID-19 invaded our nation. A year in which lives were upended, and for more than a half-million Americans and approximately 25,000 New Jerseyans, lives lost. Last year was also a time of social awakenings about equity in our nation – and health and healthcare is a part of the reckoning.
We all know the pandemic threw open, for all to see, the life-and-death stakes of inequity. The toll has been disproportionate on our most vulnerable populations, including the elderly and communities of color. That demands frank conversations, proactive policy and sufficient resources across government, payers and the healthcare system itself to address inequities related to race, age, gender and socioeconomic status.
Many of us are fortunate to have comfortable homes to retreat to during shutdowns and quarantine; technology to connect with jobs and schools; and the economic means to order groceries and essentials to our doorstep. But the structural inequalities that exist, so often born of the legacies of racism, leave many without these advantages.
Those living in poverty often battle greater risk factors. Yet, they continue to show up – in person – to their essential jobs, often by public transportation. At the end of their shift – or perhaps a second shift at another job – they return to their homes, which may be shared with generations of family members under one roof.
Our healthcare system has been both the frontline, and the backstop, in these troubled times. Healthcare heroes have put their own needs second to their patients and communities. Conquering coronavirus requires each of us – individuals, business and industry and systems – to prioritize our own health, recognize the societal responsibility to the common good and realize that protecting the vulnerable among us serves a greater public purpose. That is the force that will pull us from this pandemic and, just maybe, propel a divided nation on the road to health and to hope.
President and CEO
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