Opinion: Three ways to promote health equity in Massachusetts

January 26, 2023 — In the face of longstanding health disparities magnified during the COVID-19 pandemic, Massachusetts Gov. Maura Healey can take concrete steps to promote health equity, according to Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health’s Lumas Joseph Helaire.

In a January 9 opinion piece in CommonWealth Magazine, Helaire, assistant dean for population health management and health equity education and visiting lecturer in the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences, cited recent findings from the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation and Manatt Health that Black and Hispanic people in Massachusetts face a two to three times greater risk of contracting COVID-19, being hospitalized due to COVID-19, or dying from COVID-19 than white or Asian people.

“These disparities are not new nor are they unique to Massachusetts, but we cannot take solace in the fact that our failures are longstanding or widespread,” Helaire wrote. He offered three recommendations to the governor:

  • Address the social determinants of health—from housing to nutrition to education—to keep people well and prevent illness in the first place.
  • Invest in efforts to collect better, or never before available, data on health outcomes and demographics that can expose inequities and drive solutions.
  • Leverage state resources to diversify the ranks of the Commonwealth’s health officials, health care providers, and public health experts to better represent and serve marginalized populations.

“Massachusetts has long been a national leader in enacting reforms that drive our health system forward,” Helaire wrote. “Right now, we have an opportunity to continue that legacy in a way that expands equity and erases a system that assigns health care winners and losers based on the circumstances of one’s birth.”

Read the opinion piece in CommonWealth Magazine: 3 steps for addressing health equity in Mass.