As we begin to gradually emerge from this pandemic, Health Equity Solutions aims to ensure that we learn from this past year and address the inequities it has so starkly highlighted. On Monday, Governor Lamont released a proposal for allocating federal funding from the American Rescue Plan Act with provisions that show promise for moving Connecticut towards health equity in the coming years, including:
- Funding 100 community health workers (CHWs) to support families with newborns as they navigate the health and social services systems;
- Streamlining access to health and human services through an online portal for state-run services;
- Improving access to broadband internet services in homes and public spaces; and
- Expanding the Office of Health Equity in the Department of Public Health.
Often from the communities they serve, CHWs share information in accessible terms, help people navigate complex systems, and help to address barriers to health and reduce health disparities. CHWs are a crucial part of an equitable health care system and this program creates a new path for scaling up CHW services.
As the reliance on telehealth, telecommuting and virtual education over the past year has shown, access to the internet is a necessary part of our health in these times. A reliable internet connection means access to information, applications for social services and health insurance, telehealth, and more. The effort to ensure homes are set up to connect to internet services is important and, combined with efforts to make internet services affordable for low-income families, could help to address inequities in internet access.
Streamlining where we go to figure out what state services are available and, ultimately, how we enroll in them can facilitate access to health and human services such as health care, food programs, and other vital services. The details are not yet clear, but this proposal offers an opportunity to implement ideas for streamlining applications informed by Medicaid enrollees and navigators.
Finally, increasing staffing at the Office of Health Equity signals a future focus on taking concrete steps to address health equity. We would urge this work to begin by standardizing and improving how the state collects race, ethnicity, and language data to better equip us to identify the impacts of racism in the next crisis and the recovery period.
Each of these components of the proposal has the potential to advance health equity through the recovery period and beyond. Together, we can build a Connecticut that offers every resident the opportunity to be as healthy as possible.