Dr. Georges Benjamin is the Executive Director of the American Public Health Association. We discuss achieving better health outcomes by expanding access to both health insurance and healthcare providers, the disproportionate impact of COVID on minority communities, and racism within the healthcare system.
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Health insurance is essential to accessing healthcare. The uninsured do not get routine preventive care and, therefore, experience lower health outcomes. We must have a system that includes everyone, whether through private or public sector options. The Affordable Care Act, which was just bolstered by the newly passed American Rescue Plan, goes a long way, but many states still need to expand Medicaid in order to close the insurance gap.
COVID in Minority Communities
COVID hit minority communities hardest. African-Americans were three times more likely to get COVID, and twice as likely to die from it, as their white counterparts. Structural discrimination means more minorities are in public-facing jobs, working in grocery stores or driving buses, increasing their exposure to the virus. Minorities also traditionally suffer from being in jobs that don’t offer health insurance, living in neighborhoods with no doctors, and facing discrimination within the healthcare system.
Representation in the Medical Profession
Diversity at all levels of our medical system, from the top down, is critical to building more equitable health infrastructure. Increasing diversity in healthcare professionals, such as doctors, would be a good place to start. Currently, the rate of African-American men going to medical school is lower than when Dr. Benjamin attended school. In addition, diverse health professionals should be groomed and trained, and given the opportunity to become leaders.
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Dr. Georges Benjamin is known as one of the nation’s most influential physician leaders because he speaks passionately and eloquently about the health issues having the most impact on our nation today. From his firsthand experience as a physician, he knows what happens when preventive care is not available and when the healthy choice is not the easy choice. As Executive Director of the American Public Health Association (APHA) since 2002, he is leading the Association’s push to make America the healthiest nation in one generation.
Prior to APHA, Benjamin served as Secretary of the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. He became Secretary of Health in Maryland in April 1999, following four years as its deputy secretary for public health services. As Secretary, Benjamin oversaw the expansion and improvement of the state’s Medicaid program.
Benjamin, of Gaithersburg, Maryland, is a graduate of the Illinois Institute of Technology and the University of Illinois College of Medicine. He is board-certified in internal medicine and a fellow of the American College of Physicians, a fellow of the National Academy of Public Administration, a fellow emeritus of the American College of Emergency Physicians and an honorary fellow of the Royal Society of Public Health.
You can follow the American Public Health Association @PublicHealth.