I believe that health is the base of equity. I’ve spent my career advocating for our most vulnerable populations and working inside the health industry to develop more equitable systems. The COVID-19 pandemic exposes the weaknesses that exist across our societies and particularly within health care, bringing us face-to-face with decades of decisions that have exacerbated virus outcomes. The disparities are deepening. All things are not, and will not be equal. It is up to us to not just endure this moment, but find meaning in it and emerge better together.
In my role at the nation’s largest health care company, I’ve seen our workforce rebalance overnight to support our frontline staff and patients. I’ve seen the rapid deployment of funding and supplies, support for our most vulnerable populations, the extension of city and state government operations, and genuine progress toward a more equitable and sustainable industry.
As a Health Equity Commissioner, I work closely with the Minnesota Department of Health to address disparities in health status. My role includes advocating for programs and policies that ensure equitable access to COVID care, tracking bills, and connecting community members to the resources they need to be healthy and safe.
As a health professional with industry networks, I spend my evenings supporting hospitals and clinics sourcing personal protective equipment and readying a federally qualified health center to serve low-income, un/underinsured, and homeless populations with the virus.
I’ve never worked harder or made bigger, heavier decisions. I’ve also never felt more connected to my purpose. Every day, I’m grateful for many things, including the beginning of what a re-imagining of our industries, societies, and relationships might look like.
Because it doesn’t have to be this way. While future pandemics may be unavoidable, we can absolutely avoid repeating the outcomes of this one. We can build more resilient communities, address disparities and social determinants of health, and ensure people have access to high-quality, affordable, and culturally sensitive care.
This vision guides me every single day.
It will require a relentless commitment to getting there, and we’ll need to confront how we fundamentally think about, value, and provide for people as a society. But it is possible. Justice is what love looks like in public, and we are not just capable of this kind of humanity but deserving of it.
In a time of collective grief and unprecedented uncertainty, our communities won’t just catch us; they’ll save us. And in the future, when we look back, it’s what I hope we remember most: how we showed up for one another, how we rebuilt from the ground up, and created a new, more equitable normal. We live in this world together. We belong to one another. Now we know for sure.
Submitted by: Callie Chamberlain
UNAOC Programme: EUNA Fellowship