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News Release

NEW REPORT: Lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic

Connecticut Health Foundation report highlights lessons, promising practices

HARTFORD, Conn. (March 22, 2022) – The COVID-19 pandemic magnified existing health and economic inequities in Connecticut – and provided important lessons and promising practices that Connecticut leaders and others can draw from in working to create a more equitable state, according to a new report released by the Connecticut Health Foundation.

While the pandemic affected everyone in Connecticut, it took an especially devastating toll on people of color, who faced higher case and death rates, as well as higher rates of economic challenges. These inequities were the result of both the novel coronavirus and disparities that predated the pandemic, leaving people of color far more vulnerable to the health threat and economic disruption.

The report notes that the state’s initial responses often focused on reaching as many people as possible without addressing the additional challenges facing many of those who were hardest hit. Targeted interventions typically came later. As a result, those who were already disadvantaged were left even further behind.

The report also identifies examples of promising practices, including a vaccine clinic in Hartford designed to be as accessible as possible, efforts in New Haven to use federal funding to address longstanding racial wealth gaps, and the work of trusted messengers including the Ministerial Health Fellowship, a group of Black pastors who shared information about COVID-19 in their communities and host a weekly vaccination clinic at a Middletown church that has now vaccinated more than 15,000 people.

“Two years after Connecticut’s first COVID case, it is critical to take stock of the lessons and consider how to address the inequities that made this crisis particularly painful and deadly for communities of color,” Connecticut Health Foundation President and CEO Tiffany Donelson said. “We have the opportunity to work to become a stronger, healthier state, but that requires honest reflection and an intentional focus on policies that will address the underlying conditions that made the pandemic so devastating.”

The lessons identified in the report include:

  • People of color were more at-risk in the pandemic because of existing inequities. Making Connecticut more resilient will require addressing these inequities, not just restoring what existed before.
  • Making something “accessible” requires addressing barriers people face, not simply making something available. A broader definition of access should include considering and accommodating varying needs.
  • Trusted messengers are critical in a crisis – and are necessary partners in advancing health and well-being in regular times.
  • Connecticut must invest in public health, social services, and regional coordination.
  • Data on race, ethnicity, and language preference are critical tools in tracking equity.
  • Taking time to get community feedback is critical and will make responses more effective.

To be most effective, these changes need to be adopted in broad and sustained ways, embedded into policies and practices, rather than as individual or temporary programs, the report notes.

“Our goal is to encourage everyone to reflect on the lessons of the past two years and find ways to change how we operate to address inequities that existed before and during the pandemic. At the Connecticut Health Foundation, we are examining changes we can make, and hope others will join us in sharing what they learned and hope to improve and build on,” Donelson said.

To read the full report, click here. For an executive summary, click here. To read about the lessons the Connecticut Health Foundation has learned about how we work, click here.

For more information, please contact Arielle Levin Becker at arielle@cthealth.org or 203-901-2363.