Health Care

American Racism Through the Lens of COVID-19

June 10, 2020  • Health Innovators Fellowship & Health, Medicine & Society Program

The U.S. has recorded more than 100,000 deaths from COVID-19. The numbers also show that black and brown people are up to 3.5 times more likely to die of the virus than white people. This pandemic has further exposed the long-standing inequities and injustices that people of color, particularly Black, Indigenous, and Latinx people, experience within the U.S. health care system. How does racism play a role? While factors such as lack of access to affordable insurance and healthy food are partly to blame, death rates for many conditions are disproportionately higher among people of color even when controlling for these items. Racism is a visible and invisible through line­­ that we must understand, call out, and confront. Watch Aspen Health Innovators Raegan McDonald-Mosley, MD, MPH, and Thomas Fisher, MD, MPH, who are on the frontlines of health care, as they discuss this issue with NPR’s Maria Hinojosa and take audience questions.

This session is part of the COVID-19: Health Care at an Inflection Point webinar series, co-produced by the Aspen Institute’s Health Innovators Fellowship and Health, Medicine & Society Program.

Thomas Fisher, MD, MPH, is a board-certified emergency medicine physician at the University of Chicago, where he serves the same Chicago community where he was raised. He is a former health insurance executive and the prior president of NextLevel Health, an Illinois Medicaid managed care health plan. Previously, Tom led Affordable Care Act preparation for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois, Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Montana as vice president of health delivery transformation at Health Care Service Corporation. Dr. Fisher served as a 2010-2011 White House Fellow at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. As special assistant to Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, he worked on ACA regulations and led the development of the HHS Action Plan for Reducing Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities. His forthcoming book on restructuring the health care system will be published by One World, an imprint of Penguin Random House.

Raegan McDonald-Mosley, MD, MPH, is the chief medical officer of Planned Parenthood of Maryland and co-director of Dr. Shalon’s Maternal Action Project, a nonprofit dedicated to supporting black people through pregnancy and childbirth to close the maternal morbidity and mortality gap. Previously, Raegan served as the chief medical officer and external medical spokeswoman of Planned Parenthood Federation of America and interim president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Maryland. She also previously served on the board of directors for HealthCare Access Maryland, a nonprofit agency connecting uninsured and underinsured residents to health insurance, health care, and community resources. 

Maria Hinojosa is an award-winning news anchor and reporter who covers America’s untold stories and highlights today’s critical issues. In 2010, Hinojosa created Futuro Media, an independent nonprofit organization producing multimedia journalism that explores and gives a critical voice to the diversity of the American experience. As the anchor and executive producer of the Peabody Award-winning show Latino USA, which is distributed by NPR, and co-anchor of the politics podcast In The Thick, she has informed millions about the changing cultural and political landscape in America and abroad. Her forthcoming book, Once I Was You: A Memoir of Love and Hate in a Torn America, tells the story of immigration in America through her family’s experiences and decades of reporting and will be published by Atria Books/Simon & Schuster on Sept. 15, 2020.

More About This Series

Produced by the Aspen Institute’s Health Innovators Fellowship
Health, Medicine and Society Program

While the COVID-19 pandemic exposes longstanding challenges in the U.S. health care system, it also offers an opportunity to rethink current approaches and consider new ideas for building a healthier nation.

COVID-19: Health Care at an Inflection Point, a series co-produced by the Aspen Institute’s Health Innovators Fellowship and Health, Medicine & Society Program, will explore these challenges and opportunities. Each session, moderated by a well-known journalist, will highlight a specific issue that the pandemic has surfaced and ask the question, How can we use this pivotal moment to address deep-seated health care problems? Aspen Institute Health Innovators Fellows will describe their experiences on the ground and propose models of change. In a dark time, their forward-looking ideas provide reason for hope.

Other topics in this series:

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