On March 25, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) held a hearing on health equity and health disparities exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Committee members heard testimony from Vice President for Health Equity at Vanderbilt University Medical Center Dr. Consuelo H. Wilkins, Executive Vice President of the Seattle Indian Health Board Abigail Echo-Hawk, Managing Director of the Poverty to Prosperity Program at the Center for American Progress Taryn Mackenzie Williams, and President and CEO of Atrium Health Gene A. Woods.
Committee Chair Patty Murray (D-WA), Ranking Member Richard Burr (R-NC), and Committee members all expressed concerns over deep health disparities exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, including for communities of color, individuals with disabilities, the elderly, and rural communities. The Committee members questioned the witnesses on a variety of topics including COVID-19 vaccines and how to equitably distribute them to at-risk communities, the effect of the pandemic on Indian and tribal health services, the increased importance of telehealth during the pandemic, diversity among clinal trial participants for vaccines, and incorporating health equity practices in health data and data management.
The witnesses’ testimonies and a full recording of the hearing are available on the HELP website.