Advancing Health Equity in America Begins in Local Communities | Healthiest Communities

This year’s edition of US News & World Report’s Healthiest Societies rankings provide insight into the state of health equity in our country. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the health inequalities that disadvantaged communities have experienced for decades, and the reality is that health inequality is an American crisis.

Now more than ever, we need to address the social determinants of health and create a more equitable healthcare system focused on investing in our local communities. It will take stakeholders from across the health care spectrum to eliminate health disparities.

Recognize the intersection between health justice and the environment

Data points have been added this year to inform rankings that highlight natural hazards, including those associated with climate change, on the health of our communities. US News analysis along with the ratings reveals higher levels of risk to marginalized communities than these risks, underscoring the health effects that can result from exposure to phenomena such as heat waves, floods and wildfires.

Indigenous peoples are most at risk from natural hazards in the United States, according to the analysis, while black Americans are more vulnerable to heat waves, hurricanes, and coastal flooding than any other population group.

Meanwhile, urban communities continue to have worse air quality than rural communities. Research has also shown that communities of color are more likely to be affected by noise pollution, as well as exposure to hazardous waste and chemicals. These types of problems are associated with worse health outcomes and reduced life expectancy.

CVS Health recognizes that the health of all people is inextricably linked to the health of the planet. That’s why we take a closer look at the intersection of health equity and sustainability and outline steps we can take at the local level to help create a more equitable and sustainable world.

Promote health equity

Addressing health equity is nothing new to CVS Health. We have historically had a local presence in underserved communities across the country, providing convenient access to healthcare through CVS pharmacy locations. During the pandemic, we’ve worked across our companies—and with our network of community leaders and nonprofits—to focus on addressing inequalities around access to a COVID-19 vaccine and education in at-risk communities, with a particular focus on black and Hispanic populations. In 2021, we conducted more than 32 million COVID-19 tests and 59 million COVID-19 vaccines.

We know there is more work to be done in promoting health equity. As a healthcare innovation company that touches more than 100 million people across our lines of business, we can improve the path of equitable healthcare for people in America.

We engage with communities to understand their specific needs and work with them to develop interventions and programs that meet those needs. It’s not a one-size-fits-all approach. Through our Health Districts Initiative, we provide focused local investments designed to reduce health disparities and advance health equity in historically underserved communities across the country by addressing key social determinants of health.

Addressing a major barrier to improving health outcomes

Equitable access to affordable housing is one of the biggest barriers to improving health outcomes. Data for Healthier Communities shows that renters in urban communities spend at least 30% of their income on housing at rates higher than those in rural areas, and eviction rates are also higher.

CVS Health addresses housing insecurity and promotes better community health in at-risk populations across the country. When we make investments in local communities, we are able to make a meaningful impact and help more people live healthier lives and reach their full potential.

In 2021, we reaffirmed our commitment to address housing insecurity and increase access to health care services in underserved communities by investing $185 million in affordable housing in 2021. These investments support the development and rehabilitation of more than 6,570 affordable housing units in 64 City across 28 states and Washington, DC

Creating healthy outcomes through the power of collaboration

We know we need to address the underlying causes of health inequalities — including racism, sexism, and aging — in order to really move the needle. We know that no single person, organization or entity can do this alone. The private sector, employers, governments, hospitals, health care workers – everyone has a role to play.

The true measure of success will be when we see progress from forms of collaboration that address the social determinants of health and reduce inequality. By working together, we will be a catalyst for change and make a lasting impact on the well-being of people and communities across the country.

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