Two global phenomena—COVID-19 and the now-global movement to confront racism—have thrown in stark relief the need for the global community to confront inequity. The cost of systemic bias on health is striking and quantifiable. In both length and quality of life we see that racism and bias based on income, gender and community—and the intersections between these areas—lead too many to live shorter, sicker lives.
As an organization whose vision is a world where everyone is protected by a strong public health system, we see our work contributing to a more equitable world. Many of our programs have currently pivoted to our emergency efforts to respond to COVID-19. But we also look to the future. Our Road Safety, Obesity Prevention and Cardiovascular Health programs bring proven solutions—such as crash surveillance, strong food labeling and hypertension treatment—to low- and middle-income countries, and our Research division supports the fight against tuberculosis with STREAM, the world’s largest MDR-TB trial. The Partnership for Healthy Cities is a global network of 70 cities, committed to saving lives by preventing noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) and injuries.
Our Data Impact and CRVS work helps countries count every one of their people and use data to bring services and resources where they are most needed. The Overdose Prevention team advocates tirelessly for approaching drug overdose as a public health issue—not a moral or legal one. Our Environmental Health and Tobacco Control programs fight for policies that allow everyone to breathe clean air. And our Prevent Epidemics team is taking on the COVID-19 challenge with a monumental effort to bring evidence-based strategies to countries, cities and individuals seeking to prevent and control this newest killer.
Below is some of our recent work addressing the critical issue of health equity. While we can be proud of this work, this moment has challenged us to do more, to put the principle of equity—especially confronting racial bias—closer to the center of our work. As a leading nonprofit organization, and as public health professionals, we must ensure that strengthening public health systems includes making them more just. Our Board of Trustees, our executive management team, and our staff are embarking on a process to improve how we work and what we work on, and better hold ourselves accountable for advancing a world where there is health equity for everyone, everywhere.
—José Luis Castro
President and CEO, Vital Strategies
What to Watch
Breaking Bondage: The Intersection of Race and Public Health a Vital Talk on the legacy of slavery, the history of race-based health inequities, and the implications for public health.
Dismantle the Anti-Black Racism that Drives Criminalization and Death by the Overdose Prevention Team
To Better the Lives of Women and Girls, Improve CRVS Systems by Joan Sara Thomas, Interim Director, Asia Pacific Regional Hub