To transform public health, we must reimagine our data systems
Data systems that only document racial health disparities without measuring the inequities and racism that fuels them contribute to the problem. This failure results in a society such as ours where health disparities are often perceived as biological or behavioral rather than structural. It's a system that stigmatizes. RWJF president and CEO Richard Besser explains that properly measuring and understanding racism, and investing in the public health infrastructure to collect, aggregate and analyze data, are essential steps toward ensuring every person in the United States has a fair and just opportunity to live a healthier life. —Explore RWJF Data Commission's blueprint for change.
Equity must be a guidepost for Congress on reconciliation
Black, Latino and Indigenous people have been disproportionately impacted from a health standpoint by the Covid-19 pandemic, and a new poll from NPR, RWJF, and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health finds that the same is true from an economic standpoint. The budget reconciliation measure being debated by Congress has the potential to helps millions of families—especially those experiencing the most financial hardship—and achieve an equitable economic recovery over the long term. In an op-ed for The Hill, Richard Besser explains the policies that must be included in the final measure to help create an America in which skin color, income level, neighborhood, disability, occupation and immigration status no longer determine how long and how well people live.
America is designed to have a housing crisis: Opinion
Richard Besser and CEO of Habitat for Humanity International Jonathan T.M. Reckford describe housing in America as a case study in structural inequality. Widespread segregation by race and income has resulted in disenfranchised communities lacking access to quality education, well-paying jobs, and adequate transit. We need policies that support people of different races and income levels while empowering them with better choices about where to call home.
School meals should remain free for all children—today and always
School meals are often the difference between whether or not children have enough to eat on any given day. All schools will be permitted to serve free meals to all students—also known as universal school meals—for the 2021–2022 school year, a product and recognition of the economic and social upheaval caused by COVID-19. But the value of good nutrition to children, families, and schools is long-term and profound. RWJF President and CEO Richard Besser and Senior Program Officer Jamie Bussel explain why universal school meals should be permanent.
To end America's maternal mortality crisis, dismantle the racism that fuels it
March of Dimes President and CEO Stacey Stewart and RWJF President and CEO Richard Besser write that we must dismantle structural racism and address health inequities to ensure that all pregnant people—regardless of skin color, income, or zip code—can have healthy pregnancies, healthy babies and the ability to thrive. That's birth justice. By prioritizing critical federal and state policy changes and centering the voices and experiences of Black, Indigenous and other people of color, we can save lives and end suffering now.
The big problem with 'herd immunity'
While the United States is doing well on the whole, RWJF President and CEO Richard Besser states that ultimately what matters is how many people have had Covid-19 and how many are fully vaccinated in each community. As such, it is long past time to retire the idea of a national herd immunity and instead focus on local case levels and equitable vaccine coverage.
Solving America's public health crisis means addressing historic inequities
As two people who have worked in public health for decades at the federal and local levels, RWJF President and CEO Richard Besser and Executive Vice President Julie Morita have seen firsthand how the United States only prioritizes public health during emergencies, and that we define public health too narrowly. They argue that our nation needs to shift to a proactive approach that puts public health on solid ground, with sustainable and equitable funding—even during periods of calm—and expands the mandate of public health to confront the biggest health threat of our time: racism itself.
It's time for FDA to end the tobacco epidemic
Tobacco is responsible for more than 1,000 deaths per day and disproportionately affects people in communities of color and those with low incomes. When it comes to achieving health equity, there is no substitute for federal action. The FDA has the authority and evidence base to ban menthol cigarettes and sharply reduce nicotine levels in all cigarettes. Let's hope it has found the will to do so.
To defeat COVID-19, remember the children and don't let down your guard
As both parents and pediatricians, RWJF President and CEO Richard Besser and Executive Vice President Julie Morita stress the need to redouble our efforts to keep children safe and offer three fundamental steps to mitigate the pandemic’s effects on children.
Drs. Besser & Morita: COVID vaccine questions—It's normal to have them. We did, too. Here's what we learned.
Richard Besser and Julie Morita, like many people across the country, had questions before recently getting their first COVID-19 shots. They needed answers before rolling up their own sleeves and recommending COVID-19 vaccines to family and friends. We need to give every person in this country the space, and grace, to make up their minds. After all, they write, trust must be earned.
American Rescue Plan is a down payment on an equitable America
The American Rescue Plan Act provides hope for more than 100 million people, yet if we believe in an America in which everyone has opportunity and every person has equal value, our work is far from complete. Even if the pandemic were to end this year, the people for whom the legislation’s provisions are a lifeline still will be living in a nation steeped in inequities that cannot be eliminated with a single act of Congress, no matter how vast.
Here's what we need to do to prevent another pandemic from devastating the vulnerable
Dismantling structural racism must become America’s ultimate public health intervention. Richard Besser highlights the need to rethink how the United States can address predictable challenges that arise in public health emergencies. During this pandemic and well before, some people suffer more than others simply because of the color of their skin, what they earn, and where they live.
COVID recovery requires addressing economic inequities
Richard Besser says Congress, in crafting COVID relief legislation, must understand that one's economic health and one's physical and mental health are intertwined. He writes that lawmakers must act now to support people’s immediate needs during this pandemic, but also use this crisis as the impetus to address the long-term objective of building a society in which all people can live the healthiest lives possible.
COVID-19 vaccine rollout needs a shot of equity
RWJF President and CEO Rich Besser and RWJF Executive Vice President Julie Morita explain that in many states, an overzealous focus on speed of COVID-19 vaccine rollout is leaving behind many of those who should be vaccinated most urgently.
The CDC was damaged by marginalization and politicization. This is how Biden can fix it.
Four former CDC directors advocate for the agency—which has been the world's gold standard for public health—and lay out what needs to happen to rebuild trust through this pandemic and beyond. When driven by science, unimpeded by politics and consistently funded, the CDC will be able to save lives and protect the economy when threats arrive.
Pressure won’t help build vaccine trust
Rich Besser explains the importance of transparency, patience and vigilance in improving vaccine uptake, and ensuring that the ability to get vaccinated is not determined by one’s race, income or privilege.
Dr. Richard Besser: Despite coronavirus, science is NOT telling us to close schools
Rich Besser advises we do all we can to keep children in school by providing the funds for proper staffing, equipment, protective gear and ventilation systems. Without these supports, we cannot expect schools to remain open.
Covid-19 tsunami of suffering: The pandemic isn’t pausing; U.S. shouldn’t either
As the brutal COVID-19 winter looms, suffering in 2020 will continue well into the new year without actions by federal and state governments and a renewed commitment for people to follow public health guidance.
After Trumps' diagnosis: Vaccine or not, COVID-19 isn’t going away
Rich Besser shares five reasons why the finish line of the coronavirus pandemic is nowhere in sight, and why the people of America and our government must remain vigilant.
COVID in the White House Should be America’s Wake-Up Call
The First Family’s diagnosis is just the latest indication that we are nowhere near the end of this pandemic, writes Rich Besser, and we all need the support to survive and thrive.
We Can't Allow the CDC to be Tainted by Politics
Delaying or politicizing the CDC Mortality and Morbidity Weekly Report would be a breach of public trust that could undermine the nation’s efforts to fight coronavirus, particularly in communities of color.
For many of the nearly 28 million people in America without health insurance, complying with the CDC guidelines to stay home with COVID-19 symptoms is an impossibility, especially for people of color or those in low-wage jobs.
Former CDC Directors Richard Besser, Tom Frieden, Jeffrey Koplan and David Satcher explain why the agency's guidance on reopening schools must be based on sound science, not political pressure—and centered on safety and health equity.
Rich Besser highlights the importance of collecting, analyzing, and reporting data by race, gender, ethnicity, income and other demographics to understand who is being hit hardest by the pandemic and to guide states' response, recovery, and reopening plans.
Rich Besser and former RWJF Trustee Jeff Koplan—each of whom led the CDC during public health emergencies—lay out the importance of regular, science-based and careful communications to inform the public during the “shared journey” of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Rich Besser explains that states attempting a premature return to 'normal' are sacrifycing those with the fewest choices.
Rich Besser and Rebecca Cokley, Disability Juctice Initiative director, highlight how COVID-19 continues to unearth uncomfortable truths about inequity.
Rich Besser argues that the coronavirus response is revealing inadequate health equity and public policy.
Rich Besser highlights health equity issues raised by the Coronavirus, as well as how past public policy failures are affecting our country's ability to cope.
Rich Besser and Ford Foundation President Darren Walker discuss why it is important for the field of philanthropy to be more open to people with disabilities.
Rich Besser and Shirley Franklin, executive board chair of Purpose Built Communities, discuss America’s housing crisis, the result of policies that for generations were designed to promote and maintain segregation by race and class.
Robert Wood Johnson Foundation: We honored sports teams with racist mascots. Not anymore.
New Year's Resolution for Policymakers: Make Coverage Affordable
Despite progress, the health of our nation’s children is at risk