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On Thursday, July 29 at 12:30pm ET, Axios senior editor Sam Baker and health care reporter Caitlin Owens hosted a virtual conversation on the social determinants of health, featuring Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.) and Mary T. Bassett, director of Harvard University's FXB Center for Health and Human Rights.

Rep. Cheri Bustos discussed how Congress is working to address inequities in social determinants of health and how the pandemic exacerbated inequities in resources for care.

  • On empowering local communities to address social determinants of health: “We now are advancing [the Social Determinants Accelerator Act] in the House with the idea being, let's investigate what the social determinants are. Let's let local communities apply for that money and then have the money in that program to actually do something about it once those negative social determinants are discovered through investigation.”
  • On the pandemic’s influence on health care: “We're living in a whole new health world because of this pandemic. What we've learned is that telehealth can be an important part of somebody's health. That all of a sudden you don't have access to mass transit because you can't leave your house. It is a problem to be able to get that health care.”

Mary T. Bassett unpacked these issues from the public health perspective, focusing on equity in access to healthy living, and the current challenge of the pandemic.

  • On unequal access to care: “The 20th century saw the biggest advancements in life expectancy that have been documented in human history, but they weren't experienced equally. And that's a problem. And it wasn't just a problem of access to health care, although we all have the right to access to health care. In my view, it's also just about access to all the things that make up a healthy life.”
  • On the vaccine and mask mandates: “It is truly a case of the challenge of public health, which is the need to protect the many and the need to protect individual rights, they have to be balanced. And on that scale, public health always puts the protection of the majority of people as carrying more weight.”

Axios chief people officer Dominique Taylor hosted a View from the Top Segment with EVP & Chief Medical Officer Employer & Individual at United Healthcare Dr. Rhonda Randall where they discussed how to address health disparities through tools and initiatives.

  • On building a more sustainable, equitable health system: “Research has shown that in addition to that, there are many factors contributing to and driving our health outcomes. And ultimately, it's where we're spending our time. It's not in the doctor's offices, in our communities, in our homes and in our places of work. So things like housing, education, food insecurity and transplant, transportation and access to care are important. And those social determinants of health and advancing health equity is really integral to building that future sustainable, modern, high performing health system.”

Thank you UnitedHealth Group for sponsoring this event.

Go deeper

Nov 8, 2021 - World

Singapore halts free COVID treatment for people "unvaccinated by choice"

A medical staff member attends to a woman at the Mount Elizabeth hospital vaccine centre in Singapore. Photo: Roslan Rahman/AFP via Getty Images

The Singaporean government will no longer cover medical bills for people who are "unvaccinated by choice" after Dec. 8, the country's Ministry of Health announced Monday.

Why it matters: "We have to send this important signal to urge everyone to get vaccinated if you are eligible," Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said at a news conference. 82.47% of Singapore's population is fully vaccinated, per Johns Hopkins University.

Nov 9, 2021 - Health

DOJ investigating Oak Street Health

An Oak Street Health clinic. Photo: Oak Street Health

The Department of Justice is investigating Oak Street Health, the newly public chain of physician clinics that focuses on Medicare patients, over possible violations of the False Claims Act, the company disclosed in a quarterly filing.

Why it matters: Oak Street Health is one of the fastest-growing primary care groups, especially for people over 65.

  • The DOJ requested documents tied to Oak Street Health's "relationships with third-party marketing agents" and "free transportation" provided to its patients, according to the filing.

DOJ launches environmental justice investigation into Alabama county

Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

The Department of Justice announced on Tuesday that it is launching an environmental justice investigation into whether Alabama’s state and local health departments discriminated against Black residents.

Why it matters: The investigation will examine whether the departments' policies have caused Black residents in Lowndes, Alabama, to "have diminished access to adequate sanitation systems."