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Past Event

Destination Health: Driving Equity in Health Care

As our country faces the worst economic downturn in a century due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many Americans are experiencing financial strain, leading to food insecurity and rising homelessness. Communities of color are disproportionately impacted by both the coronavirus and the resulting economic crisis, creating multiple barriers to health.

The health-care industry has long recognized the awful truth that race and economic status are linked and both are social predictors of health. The difference in life expectancy between the richest 1 percent and poorest 1 percent of Americans is about 12 years, and between Black and white people there is a 4-year gap on average, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Additionally, research shows that underrepresented populations tend to receive lower quality of care and experience greater morbidity and mortality from various chronic diseases. The renewed focus on race amid the COVID-19 pandemic and protests over societal bias provide an opportunity for structural change.

In the United States, we spend more on health care and less on the social services that support healthier communities than most industrialized nations. Today’s pandemic continues to highlight how this mismatch in spending is driving some of our poor health-care outcomes. The potential for a significant rise in homelessness, food insecurity and other social issues amid COVID-19 will have drastic effects on health. We already know, for example, that chronic homelessness can cut 27 years from a person’s life. We cannot keep people healthy if they cannot keep a roof over their head and food on the table.

Our country’s health-care system is already facing a massive challenge as it cares for those infected with the coronavirus. How can we address the physical, psychological, economic and social impacts of inequity and systematic racism to foster more equitable and healthier communities? Join a panel of experts as we explore opportunities to drive health equity.

Read an excerpt of this program in The Commonwealth magazine:


This event is part of The Commonwealth Club’s Thought Leadership series, Destination Health, which focuses on the future of health, featuring in-depth conversations on the challenges driving physical, mental and social health. It is underwritten by Kaiser Permanente.

This is a free program; please consider making a donation during registration

This event will be online-only; pre-register for a link to the live-stream program.

December 15, 2020

United States

Image - Joseph Betancourt
Joseph Betancourt
M.D., MPH, Vice President Chief Equity and Inclusion Officer, Massachusetts General Hospital; Founder, Senior Advisor and Faculty, The Disparities Solutions Center; Associate Professor, Harvard Medical School
Image - Aletha Maybank
Aletha Maybank
M.D., MPH, Chief Health Equity Officer and Group Vice President, American Medical Association
Image - Leana Wen
Leana Wen
M.D., Emergency Physician and Visiting Professor of Health Policy and Management, George Washington University School of Public Health; Former Health Commissioner, City of Baltimore; CNN Medical Analyst
Image - Ronald Wyatt
Ronald Wyatt
M.D., Vice-President and Patient Safety Officer, MCIC Vermont; Former Chief Quality and Patient Safety Officer, Cook County Health; Internationally Known Patient Safety Expert and Health Equity Champion
Image - April Dembosky
April Dembosky
Health Correspondent, KQED Radio—Moderator

noon–1 p.m. (Pacific Time) program