Across the nation, communities of color have experienced enduring health disparities due to systemic racism, which have been exacerbated by disproportionate physical, social, and economic impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic.
State Medicaid and public health programs — working within their own agencies and collaboratively — have great potential to advance health equity for the communities they serve, especially for people of color. Given Medicaid’s role in delivering care to individuals with low incomes, including many from communities of color, the program is uniquely situated to address health disparities.2 Public health agencies are responsible for improving population health for their communities, with a particular focus on addressing social determinants of health and advancing equity.
With support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Center for Health Care Strategies (CHCS) and the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO) led a national scan to identify health equity priorities that state agencies can advance in the next two years — especially those shared across agencies. The exploration also sought opportunities to center community voices as part of these efforts. Activities included a literature review and more than 20 interviews with representatives from
state Medicaid agencies, public health departments, Offices of Health Equity, member advocacy groups, community-based organizations, and health equity experts. Drawing from this national analysis, this brief summarizes opportunities to advance health equity in three areas:
- Advancing internal-facing health equity work;
- Leveraging data to drive health equity efforts; and
- Engaging community members authentically