In New Brief, the Nation’s Leading Medical Authorities and Frontline Organizations  Explain Importance of Equitable Considerations In COVID-19 Treatment Guidance

New York, N.Y. — Today, leading medical, health equity, and social science experts–as well as organizations with direct experience on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic including in New York– joined an amicus brief to urge the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York Binghamton Division in Jacobson v. Bassett to dismiss a case filed against New York challenging its COVID-19 treatment guidance. Brief signers include the National Birth Equity Collaborative, National Medical Association, American Medical Association, Medical Society of the State of New York, American College of Physicians, American Public Health Association, Council of Medical Specialty Societies, New York State Academy of Family Physicians, Community Service Society of New York, Housing Works, Callen-Lorde Community Health Center, Partners In Health, Dr. Denis Nash, Dr. Oni Blackstock, Dr. Joseph Osmundson, Dr. Robert Cohen, Dr. Alexis Merjanoff, Dr. Diana Romero, Dr. Monica McLemore and Justin Feldman, ScD.

Although race is a social construct and not an inherent genetic trait, as a result of myriad factors, including social drivers of health, BIPOC people experience higher rates of severe COVID-19 symptoms, hospitalizations, and death from COVID-19 than white people. This December, New York released guidance from the Department of Health suggesting that medical professionals consider an individual’s non-white race or Hispanic/Latino ethnicity in treatment decisions for COVID-19 during times of short supply. In this brief, signers, represented by Democracy Forward, highlight the substantial medical and scientific literature that supports the New York Department of Health’s acknowledgment that “longstanding systemic health and social inequities have contributed to an increased risk of severe illness and death from COVID-19” for people of “[n]on-white race or Hispanic/Latino ethnicity.” 

As made evident in the brief, the legacy of this country’s long history of racist policies—such as segregation and persistent inequities in housing, employment, access to healthcare, health care, and more—has led to adverse health outcomes for racial and ethnic groups historically marginalized by our nation’s systems. The brief explains that social factors, known as “social determinants of health,” and systemic factors such as exposure to racism, are both “social drivers of health,” which establish that societal conditions can—and do—affect an individual’s health risk.

Racism and implicit bias within the medical system has resulted in lower quality healthcare for BIPOC individuals. The New York Department of Health’s non-binding guidance addresses systemic inequities upfront in the delivery of care–inequities that are proven to increase the risk of developing severe COVID-19 symptoms for minoritized populations relative to whites. And, as the brief states, this risk is not captured by other immediately observable information such as age, vaccination status, and presence of underlying medical conditions.

“We are honored to represent this broad coalition of the nation’s medical, health equity, and social science experts and organizations on the frontlines of fighting COVID-19 in their affirmation of New York’s equitable considerations for COVID-19 treatment,” said Skye Perryman, President and CEO of Democracy Forward. “The Department of Health’s policy appropriately acknowledges the impact that systemic inequities have had on minoritized populations in our society, which has had an enduring and longstanding impact on peoples’ ability to live a long and healthy life, and it must be upheld.”

Read the full brief here.

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Democracy Forward Foundation (“Democracy Forward”) is a nonprofit legal organization founded in 2017 that litigates cases involving government action on behalf of organizations, individuals, and municipalities. The organization has taken 650 legal actions and achieved victories supporting democracy and improving the lives and wellbeing of people and communities. Democracy Forward Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.

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