Sara Rosenbaum: A Disparities Agenda in Health Policy Is Needed

If more time was spent on things that make life more high quality, less time would be spent on worrying about healthcare, said Sara Rosenbaum, JD, the Harold and Jane Hirsh Professor of Health Law and Policy and founding chair of the Department of Health Policy at the Milken Institute School of Public Health, George Washington University.

How can health disparities be addressed in health policy?
Of course, health disparities are just an enormous issue. It begins with terrible disparities by race, by income, by other measures unrelated to the need for healthcare and overall health status. I was recently at Governor Ralph Northam’s inauguration, and he made the point that people who live in central city Richmond, Virginia, had a lifespan that was 10 years shorter than people who lived 2 miles from the capital in one of the Richmond suburbs.

If you look at the factors that cause those disparities, they really have less to do with healthcare, per say, but healthcare becomes one of the great moments in time when we come face to face with the effects of those disparities both because people are likely to receive less care and less high-quality care, but more importantly, because they arrive at the healthcare system so much sicker. A disparities agenda in health policy means that those of us like me who are insurance lawyers spend a lot of their time worrying about housing, and food deserts, and the quality of child care, access to parks, things that make life really not just more high quality but really are the building blocks of daily life. I think if we spent more time on that, we’d find we have to spend less time worrying about healthcare.
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