In an extended interview with Mother Jones, Dr. David R. Williams, Florence Sprague Norman and Laura Smart Norman Professor of Public Health and chair of the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences, speaks about the longstanding social and health equalities in the U.S. that the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed and about what we can do now to better prepare for the next pandemic.
He particularly advocates for a “Marshall Plan” for disadvantaged communities. By investing in better housing, neighborhoods, and opportunities for high-quality education and jobs for Blacks and Latinos, the U.S. can change the underlying conditions and improve health.
Quoting Thomas LaVeist and Darrell Gaskin’s research, Dr. Williams says that racial inequalities cost the U.S. economy about $300 million a year. “Part of that [$300 million] is the extra cost of the higher rates of illness,” he explains. “But the biggest part of that is a loss of productivity. We are wasting the productive capacity of the United States by allowing these disparities to persist and leaving these communities without access to economic opportunity.”
“For every dollar invested [in disadvantaged communities] is a $17 dollar return to society.”