Video & highlights from “5 Slides: How philanthropy is addressing COVID-19”

On Wednesday we held our “5 Slides: How philanthropy is addressing COVID-19” virtual convening. The conversation featured Elena Marks, CEO, Episcopal Health Foundation, Steve Williams, COO, Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority, and Sarah Lyman, Executive Director, Alliance Healthcare Foundation.

During the conversation, the three leaders described the inequities and outcome disparities seen in COVID-19 data.

Marks kicked off the conversation with a slide showing how poverty rates from 20 years ago — which show Black and Hispanic populations experiencing a disproportionate amount of poverty — are reflected in the current data on COVID-19 cases.



The 2020 COVID data shows a similar story with Black and Hispanic populations being disproportionately impacted by the coronavirus.

“What that tells me is that we have long-standing, structural barriers in place that have prevented and literally held back certain communities from having the full opportunities that everybody wants, needs, and deserves for themselves,” said Marks. “If you want to understand why white populations are doing better than Black and Hispanic populations in Texas, you have to look very deeply into all of the structures that are in place and understand that it’s not just about COVID. That it’s about the systems we have in this society that disadvantage populations over and over and over again.”

Lyman offered a look at these inequities from a wealth perspective.



The image on the left, explained Lyman, shows the severe racial wealth gap that has existed for decades. The image on the right shows the distribution of COVID cases in San Diego County.

“When you overlay the COVID-19 cases by zip code in San Diego County with race and ethnicity, you see that 8 out of 10 of the hardest hit zip codes, and all of the top 5, have substantially higher proportions of minorities and low-income families than the county as a whole,” said Lyman.

She says the map highlights how important targeted, place-based interventions are going to be.

During the conversation, Williams pointed out that the data in these two slides is reflective of larger policy and culture issues that need to be addressed.

“The slides that they had illustrate something very powerful and very concerning, which is we can talk about access to health care using things like telehealth technology and making sure organizations stay afloat so that they can provide the services, but what those charts showed you are very structural things that are engrained in our policy and our culture,” said Williams. “If we really don’t address and move upstream as they suggested, the next pandemic, not even a pandemic, we’re still going to have inequitable access to health care which ultimately has impacts on families, our economies, and our country as a whole.”

State of Reform host DJ Wilson concluded the conversation by asking the panelists what counsel they would give to health care leaders grappling with these structural challenges.

Williams said he thinks providers are aware of the existing disparities and inequities, but they are unsure how they can have an impact at a policy level. He recommends advocacy.

“There needs to be the data, the research, and the collective will to advocate for policy changes,” said Williams.

Marks agreed with Williams that advocacy is key. She said that health care leaders can go to city council meetings and advocate for the communities where a lot of their patients come from.

“They are powerful voices who are well-respected. And that doesn’t really cost anything except you have to be willing to put your reputation and name on the line and you’ve got to be willing to get out there,” she concluded.

The full video of the conversation is available above and all 5 slides are available here.