The COVID-19 pandemic has magnified social, economic, and health inequities among historically marginalized populations including Black, Latinx, American Indian, and Asian American subpopulations. Recent data show that Black and Latinx life expectancy declined by three years compared to 1.5 years for the total population in the United States as a result of the pandemic. These data reflect higher risk of COVID-19 exposure, mortality, and morbidity. In addition to disparities in disease burden, historically marginalized populations have experienced systemic barriers to accessing COVID-19 services and resources, leading to rate disparities for testing, vaccination and monoclonal antibody treatment. Although some disparities have narrowed, vaccination rates among Black and Latinx populations remain lower than non-Hispanic white populations, and disproportionately low relative to the proportion of cases and deaths. In response to COVID-19 health disparities, some states have established and invested in health equity task forces or workgroups. These task forces are designed to implement strategies to reduce the effects of structural racism and other structural inequities that create the systems, policies and practices that have led to COVID-19 disparities.
The National Governors Association, Duke-Margolis Center for Health Policy and the National Academy for State Health Policy convened state health equity leaders through the COVID-19 Health Equity Learning Network. The network serves as a platform for sharing best and promising practices for improving health equity in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. This brief synthesizes key accomplishments and lessons learned based on interviews with 10 state COVID-19 health equity task forces represented in the network. We interviewed state officials representing the following states: Delaware, Illinois, Louisiana, Michigan, New Mexico, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia, and Wisconsin. In addition, we highlight how the network informed or supported efforts led by these task forces. Lastly, the task forces reflected on focus areas to inform priority-setting for future initiatives to address equity and sustain efforts during and following the COVID-19 pandemic.