Congressional Briefing & Interviews: 

Addressing Disparities in Black, Indigenous & Rural Communities 

Virtual Congressional Briefing

Individuals in Black, Indigenous, and rural communities have been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Bipartisan efforts to reduce health disparities in these communities cannot succeed without addressing economic and social drivers of health, often called “social determinants of health”. For example, poverty affects access to quality housing, food, and the ability to withstand economic shocks like unemployment due to the pandemic. Education and economic opportunities affect income and health decision-making. Inadequate transportation, environmental contaminants (e.g., mold or lead in substandard housing), historical inequities, and discrimination also contribute to health disparities, which are exacerbated during the COVID-19 pandemic. A disconnect between community needs and the disproportionate availability of health care services with adequate capacities further widens these disparities.

Current policy efforts related to COVID-19 provide an opportunity for reducing disparities as well as improving economic mobility, health care, and the criminal justice system. Issues related to disparities in this context include, but are not limited to, housing, violence and crime (e.g., due to stress, economic instability), workplace issues (e.g., access to PPE, low wages, racism), access to resources (e.g., food, technology), and healthcare (e.g., pre-existing conditions, insurance, infrastructure). Access to key supports are particularly diminished in these racialized and marginalized communities. Promising practices in relaxing restrictions on healthcare providers, improving work and home environments, and digital innovations have the potential to enhance access points. This briefing will cover a few issues related to racial and health disparities: (i) identifying complex needs that contribute to disparities, (ii) promoting training for individuals in marginalized communities (iii) expanding access to care and information through technology.

This event is made possible in part by funding from SPSSI, Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues and the Applied Social Issues Internship Program grant provided to Nicolyn Charlot. 

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AgendA & Materials:


Opening Remarks by: Congresswoman Yvette Clarke


Health Inequities Experienced by Black Americans During COVID-19

Kamila Alexander, John Hopkins University, School of Nursing

Meeting the Needs of Indian Country and Indigenous Populations

Ann Michelle Daniels, South Dakota State University

The Impact of COVID-19 on Rural Communities: Problems and Policy

Dara Whalen, The College of New Jersey​ 


Margaret Holland McDuffFamily Service of Rhode Island

Moderated by: Tracy Vozar, Graduate School of Professional Psychology at the University of Denver

Panelist Interviews and Fact Sheets

In addition to participating in our virtual congressional briefing, Ann Michelle Daniels, Dara Whalen, and Kamila Alexander participated in short interviews with RPC interns Nicolyn Charlot and Brianna Baker. These interviews go into more depth about the disparities Black, Indigenous, and rural communities are facing, and what policymakers can do to address these issues.


Health Disparities in Black Communities During COVID-19

  • Black individuals are at increased risk for contracting COVID-19 and experiencing negative outcomes from the virus. Reasons this is occurring include poor work and living conditions and racial bias in healthcare and the workplace.

  • Solutions to these issues include: update the minimum wage, improve low income housing, and create policies to address discrimination. 


Health Disparities in Indigenous Communities During COVID-19

  • Indigenous people have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19. Some of the reasons for these disparities include a lack of data on Indigenous’ needs and experiences, limited resources (e.g., PPE, running water, and historical discrimination and trauma.

  • Solutions to these issues include: streamlining fund distribution, improving data collection, and promoting collaborations between tribal and non-tribal health centers.



Health Disparities in Rural Communities During COVID-19

  • Rural Americans are at increased risk for infection and mortality from COVID-19. This is happening due to factors such as increased rates of chronic illness, limited health care options, and poor working conditions.

  • Solutions to these issues include: Expanding public health infrastructure, investing in job reallocation and training programs, and relaxing regulations on healthcare providers.