‘Unevenly distributed’: UC Berkeley alumna discusses COVID-19 impact on health equity

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UC Berkeley alumna Jennifer Prah Ruger is using her experience in researching the differences between health-focused public policies to discuss global health equity — or fair access to health resources — during pandemics.

As the founder and director of the University of Pennsylvania Health Equity and Policy Lab, Prah Ruger works with more than 65 collaborators worldwide to conduct global qualitative and quantitative research. According to Prah Ruger, the lab tries to understand social contexts and if communities are focused on health equity by looking into multiple factors regarding health policies.

Prah Ruger added that the lab studies various communities to look into such factors.

“We want to provide research in an independent capacity … to understand what health equity looks like,” Prah Ruger said. “We’ve done research in which we have both conceptually and theoretically argued that equity really involves trying to make what’s possible in one part of the world possible in another part of the world.”

According to Prah Ruger, the lab found that equity increases as health care opportunities expand, which points to health insurance being a factor that contributes to greater health equity.

Prah Ruger added that health equity should also be protected from financial impacts and health threats and suggested that public policies should focus on implementing universal health care at a reasonable cost.

In regard to COVID-19 and the current state of the pandemic, Prah Ruger’s work has been focused on discussing the future of global health and the pandemic’s impact on health equity.

In examining preliminary data, according to Prah Ruger, populations consisting of people of color, the elderly and those with underlying health conditions are experiencing higher death rates. She added that these conditions include obesity, asthma, diabetes and heart disease, which are all more prevalent in communities of color.

People of color have also been disproportionately affected in that they are often essential workers, with many working in higher-risk settings and having fewer resources, Prah Ruger added.

“COVID-19 has exposed the underlying inequities in our society and certain health inequities,” Prah Ruger said. “So, sadly and very unfortunately — but not surprisingly — many of the outcomes from the COVID-19 pandemic and the epidemic in the United States have been unevenly distributed.”

Contact Marie Bellevue at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @MarieBellevue_DC.