Research on health inequities has accumulated in recent years, but much of the medical community agrees that COVID-19 has served as a stark wakeup call as to how serious and significant the disparities are. For instance, the medical literature highlighted the higher rates of chronic diseases amongst people of color long before the COVID-19 pandemic, but the alarming differences in mortality due to COVID-19 amongst these groups has forced us to reckon with the true implications of these differences.
As with the data pointing to the differences, we have also long had evidence for the drivers of these differences - such as unequal access to medical care, nutrition, education, housing, and transportation. The COVID-19 pandemic has helped to shed light on the need to train our healthcare workers to account for these differences in the care they provide. In the future, incorporating an understanding of social determinants of health into the nature of the care we provide will be critical.
For those pursuing careers in healthcare, there are not yet significant, robust resources for learning about health disparities. Becoming educated on how to transform knowledge of health disparities into action to support public health is currently even harder to come by. For now, the problem is being defined more than it is being solved.
Programs to support relevant skills are likely to develop soon as a consequence of the insights gained through the COVID-19 experience. However, being proactive about educating yourself on these issues and considering how you could contribute to overcome such disparities in your healthcare work may position you to provide unique value in healthcare settings.
The issue of health disparities is complex. While a career in medicine does not require that you provide a perfect solution for this serious problem, demonstrating a clear understanding of the problem and that you have given careful consideration to how you can contribute - even in small ways - to a potential solution are likely to improve your success in this field in coming years.