Addressing health inequity a ‘whole of society issue’

The COVID-19 pandemic has pulled back the curtain on longstanding health inequities, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health’s Mary Bassett said during a recent video conversation hosted by Axios.

“The 20th century saw the biggest advancements in life expectancy that have been documented in human history, but they weren’t experienced equally,” Bassett, Francois-Xavier Bagnoud Professor of the Practice of Health and Human Rights and director of the FXB Center for Health and Human Rights, said during the July 29, 2021 event. She added, “That’s a problem. And it wasn’t just a problem of access to health care, although we all have the right to access to health care. In my view, it’s also just about access to all the things that make up a healthy life.”

Bassett noted that public health is often a story of “two steps forward, one step back,” and COVID-19 has been a big step backwards, particularly for people of color. She called for action to be taken by top policymakers to address health inequity, but said that it is a “whole of society issue.” She added that it is important for public health professionals to talk about the lives that are at stake if society does not change. She said, “It’s not simply a moral issue, but about our ability to live long and healthy lives.”

Watch Axios video: A conversation on social determinants of health