Author Archives: Jacquelynn Y. Orr

Connecting Systems to Build Health Equity

Aug 4, 2022, 11:00 AM, Posted by Jacquelynn Y. Orr

Working together, academic and community-based researchers can strengthen connections across medical, social service and public health systems to help diminish structural racism. 

Large group of people in the convergent arrows form.

Editor’s note: This funding opportunity is now closed.

My maternal grandfather had some good fortune in his life. As both a veteran and an employee of the Ford Motor Company in Detroit, he was eligible for health benefits from two sources. That meant that along with traditional medical services, he could readily access dental care, medical devices, and social services that included counseling and housing assistance, if he needed them. He could even ride his motorized scooter to the Veterans Administration hospital and meet up after clinic appointments with buddies who shared many of his life experiences, providing the social connections so essential to wellbeing.

As my career in health administration evolved, I began to realize that such a palette of services is rare. More typically, people feel as if they are living inside a pinball machine, batted incessantly from one corner to the next in their search for help. Because medical, social service, and public health systems have never been well threaded together, the fractured and inequitable distribution of services and support has become commonplace.

To live the healthiest life possible, people need access not only to appropriate providers and treatment but also, at times, help dealing with housing instability, food insecurity, social isolation, financial strain, interpersonal violence, and other social determinants of health. No single system can provide all of that; instead, systems need to work seamlessly together to provide it as best they can.

View full post

Three Policy Lessons to Advance Health Equity During an Ever-Evolving Pandemic

Jun 16, 2022, 11:00 AM, Posted by Jacquelynn Y. Orr

Many COVID policies and practices exacerbated longstanding health disparities. Here’s how we can change that going forward.

Capital Building

Since Omicron first appeared here in December 2021, the United States has had a 63 percent higher COVID death rate than other high-income nations. We also continue to experience deep disparities by race and ethnicity for risk of infection, hospitalization, and death from COVID. Even though federal agencies issued guidelines on how to stay safe, it was our local and state responses that explain many of the differences in health outcomes.

We turned to researchers working with Systems for Action, Policies for Action, and Evidence for Action, all signature research programs of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, to find evidence-based answers within policies, practices, and data to help explain these disparities. The questions included: Which responses worked best during the pandemic for our population as a whole and for communities at greatest risk? And how can we respond to future large-scale national emergencies in ways that better protect the health of vulnerable people and communities?

Here are three important lessons that emerged:

1. Pandemic Response Policies Must Protect People at Greatest Risk

While rapid policy responses to COVID (from physical distancing to temporary paid leave) were meant to protect the general public, many of these policies left out groups most vulnerable to the health and economic consequences of COVID-19. For instance, the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act excluded some 60 million workers, including health care providers and first responders who could not stay at home or practice measures such as physical distancing.

View full post