Communities in Ohio Address Rising Inequalities in Response to COVID-19

Apr 24, 2020

From the National Institute for Children's Health Quality's website:

A serious compounding problem of COVID-19 is how it is intensifying inequalities across the country, including in Ohio where significant disparities in maternal and child health persist.

“Barriers created by bias and difficulties with access to resources—those problems don’t go away because we are facing a national crisis. Instead, you’ve just added this new issue, which really compounds existing inequities,” explains Michelle Edison, MPH, MS, who serves as the Pathways HUB Coordinator for Mahoning County Public Health in Northern Ohio. The Mahoning Valley Pathways HUB is one of six certified HUBs in Ohio, all of which work to address racial disparities in infant mortality and birth outcomes by connecting at-risk families with trained community health workers, resources, education, and support. As the Pathways HUB coordinator, Edison has seen firsthand the impact COVID-19 is having on families with the least resources.

“What it comes down to is this,” continues Edison. “People who can get to the head of the line and get what’s available will be okay. But if you are consistently the one who gets pushed back to the end of the line, you’re going to find yourself further removed from accessing those resources. That’s why the coronavirus is going to have a much bigger impact on populations who are already at some sort of disadvantage, including communities of color.”

Edison’s description illustrates a stark reality that extends from grocery store lines to public resources and programs. In March, when cities began to shut down, people across the country rushed to stockpile goods. Those with less money and resources didn’t have the luxury of stocking up on items, and instead had to pick through empty aisles for what remained. Now, in the face of mass layoffs and closed schools, families across the country are going to heavily rely on public programs and resources—those that already exist, those that have emerged in response to the pandemic, and those that will surface as the crisis continues. And again, getting to front of the line for those resources will be easier for some than others.

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