Research shows that the COVID-19 pandemic has widened gaps in health equity across the U.S. A national survey by the Morehouse School of Medicine shows that decreases in access to care have contributed to increases in health disparities for the most vulnerable populations. The survey found that 50% of all respondents delayed or completely went without health care services during the pandemic. This was even higher for people who identify as Black, Indigenous, or as a person of color, with 64% indicating they delayed or went without health care services during the pandemic.
The Health Center Program also experienced significant declines in the number of patients utilizing a health center during the pandemic (from 29.8 million in 2019 to 28.5 million in 2020). This decline indicates, as does the Morehouse survey, that challenges related to COVID-19 have prevented vulnerable populations from accessing health care, exacerbating issues related to equity and access. Our health center research brief, Identifying COVID-19 Mortality and Social Deprivation Hot Spots and Exploring Opportunities for Health Center Response, focuses on identifying geographic locations in the U.S. that were most impacted by COVID-19 and are more likely to have barriers to care, as defined by levels of social deprivation. Using Geographic Information Systems, we found that the counties with the highest rates of COVID-19 mortality also have the highest levels of social deprivation. As shown in the map above, areas with high COVID-19 mortality and high levels of social deprivation cluster in the southeastern U.S., Texas, Arizona, and the Dakotas.
We look forward to potential future research on COVID-19 mortality, health centers, and vaccination rates. Visit our Health Center Research page to read the brief, and feel free to contact us with any questions, comments, or ideas.