2021 Hero Engage Womens Health Racial Health Disparities

Family health is a women’s economic issue

Healthy women mean healthy families, and healthy families mean healthy communities. This was the message of a recent Engage Velocity Index virtual panel: “Keeping Kids and Moms Healthy: Family Health Is a Women’s Economic Issue.”

Panelists, including U.S. Representative Lauren Underwood (IL-14th), Senior Vice President at Blue Cross Blue Shield Association Justine Handelman, and Department Chair & Associate Professor at Temple University’s Lewis Katz School of Medicine Margot Savoy, M.D., MPH, addressed how a healthy family is key to a woman’s economic security.

While women outnumber, outlive and out vote men, they often face greater economic and health disparities. And for women of color, the impacts are even greater. 

Our key takeaways:

The system isn’t equitable as is

Health and economic disparities exist among women and men, but also between white women and women of color. These disparities can keep woman from living healthy lives and raising healthy families as well as prevent them from reaching true economic security. During the COVID-19 pandemic, women faced a disproportionate burden of economic fallout. Eighty percent of those who left the workforce by the fourth quarter of 2020 were women.

Additionally, many are limited in their access to quality health care due to social determinants of health, including limited access to transportation or childcare. Telehealth has met the need for much of in-person care during the pandemic, but not all care can be provided remotely. There may be a hybrid telehealth/in-person care model to better serve families seeking care. 

Childhood immunizations are declining, but we can catch up

Vaccines prevent 2 to 3 million deaths globally each year and prevent millions more from ever becoming sick. But recent reports show a 26 percent drop in routine childhood immunizations in the U.S. This is a dangerous trend that puts not only individuals, but entire communities at-risk. As COVID-19 brought in stay-at-home orders, many families switched to telehealth care or canceled appointments completely.  Getting people back into the doctor’s office and catching them up on routine medical care including vaccines is critical to ensuring long-term physical, behavioral and economic health. Vaccines prevent illness, which helps prevent missed school days and missed work. When women are forced to stay home, their economic future is threatened.

Legislation supporting women of color, particularly mothers is essential

Americans support bipartisan policy solutions to help support health equity for women, and recent legislation including the Momnibus package and the Community Immunity during COVID-19 Act of 2020 are just that. 

Black women in the U.S. are three to four times more likely to die from a pregnancy-related complication than white, non-Hispanic women, and they also experience more maternal health complications. The Momnibus package offers data-driven, evidence-based solutions to save lives and end disparity by improving the health outcomes of pregnant women and mothers, particularly African American and Native American women, incarcerated women, female veterans and others.

The Community Immunity bill puts robust funding directly into communities in a culturally and linguistically appropriate way to increase immunization rates.

Offering the right care, at the right time, in the right setting can save lives and ensuring women have access to the care they need for themselves and their families will benefit everyone.

Read more from BCBSA Sr. Vice President Justine Handelman on how to keep families healthy.

Watch the full event.




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