Archives     Advertise     Editorial Calendar     Subscribe     Contact Us    

U.S. Surgeon General Jerome M. Adams Explores Health Inequity and COVID-19 with the Nashville Health Care Council and NashvilleHealth


This week, the Nashville Health Care Council and NashvilleHealth hosted "Conversations on Health Equity and Action to Eliminate Disparities: Part Two," the second in a three-part series exploring health inequity and its long-standing threat to business and community growth and vitality. The conversation featured U.S. Surgeon General Jerome M. Adams, M.D., MPH, and was moderated by Bill Frist, M.D., former U.S. Senate Majority Leader; Founder and Chairman, NashvilleHealth; and Partner, Cressey & Company.

As the 20th surgeon general of the United States, Adams oversees nearly 6,100 uniformed health officers who serve more than 800 locations throughout the U.S. and around the globe. He has created several initiatives to tackle our nation's most pressing health issues, including: the opioid epidemic, oral health, and the links between community health and both economic prosperity and national security. During his time as an Indiana health commissioner, he led the state's response to the Ebola virus and HIV. He is also a member of President Trump's COVID-19 task force.

Adams began by addressing the COVID-19 pandemic and its effect on public health. "The pandemic has hit us hard, but it has particularly affected people of color, people with underlying conditions, and those who are older. There are a multitude of factors we could go through to explain this, but from my standpoint -- and there's good data to back this up -- all of these reasons are rooted in social pre-existing conditions that conspire to reduce our resilience, opportunity and health," he said.

In a vicious cycle, social determinants of health including access to transportation, childcare and safe and affordable housing can contribute to chronic medical conditions like diabetes, lung disease, kidney disease and high blood pressure. It should come as no surprise, said Adams, that these diseases are more common in vulnerable communities with higher concentrations of people of color. During the pandemic, social determinants of health make people more susceptible to COVID-19 and its more severe complications, including death.

As Nashville makes strides against COVID-19 and addresses social determinants of health, so too does the nation. Adams shared that as of September 30, the United States has opened more than 1700 community-based testing sites, 65% of which were intentionally located in socially vulnerable areas; supported testing at Federally Qualified Health Centers which offer COVID-19 testing at 94% of their centers and 67% of these community health centers serve predominantly low-income areas and people of color; and completed 113 million tests. In the previous week, 97% of commercial lab tests were completed within 3 days and almost 99% of all tests were completed within five days. For the same timeframe, the national COVID-19 positivity rate was 4.4%.

"Every time you turn on the TV, you see death tolls and case counts. You see people arguing over how things have gone so wrong," said Adams. "We need to acknowledge the missteps and learn lessons, but also help people understand that we've made progress and encourage them not to lose hope."

Adams attributed the "record pace" of progress toward a vaccine, therapeutics and diagnostics to the Administration's emphasis on public-private partnerships. This advanced timeline is "nothing less than historic" as it can take decades to develop a vaccine, Adams said, but he noted this is only the first step. Ensuring all Americans have an equitable opportunity to be vaccinated and promoting vaccine confidence are key the protecting against COVID-19.

"It would be real shame if we did all this work, spent all this taxpayer money and actually have a vaccine to stop the pandemic, but it rages on because people aren't able to get or willing to accept the vaccine," he said. "Vaccines work. They are the safest and most effective public health intervention we've had in the last 50 years in this country and they play an important role in preventing the spread of disease. But they can only protect communities when all of those who are able to receive a vaccination are willing to do so."

Frist also addressed the topic of trust, citing a NashvilleHealth community and wellbeing survey that found when a person of color interacts with health care personnel, they report three times the sense of discrimination compared to whites. He asked Adams to identify how a community -- especially health care providers and leaders -- can alleviate bias and encourage trust among patients. Adams encouraged NashvilleHealth to publish the survey results in a peer reviewed journal to justify and encourage taxpayer spending on this issue and reminded the audience to pay attention to the pipeline.

"There are fewer Black men going to medical school now than there were 40 years ago," Adams said. "We know from the published data that ultimately no matter the color of your skin, you'll have a more satisfying health care encounter and be able to let down your guard, engage and trust if the provider comes from your community -- if they think like you, look like you and talk like you. Representation matters. We shouldn't be going backward, we should be increasing the diversity of our health care workforce."

Frist and Adams agreed mentorship programs can play a significant role in this effort. Adams referenced a personal story to emphasize the magnitude of representation. "I had a 4.0 grade point average throughout most of my K-12 education. I never dreamed I could be a doctor because I grew up in a rural area and had never met a Black doctor. I didn't meet a Black doctor until I went to college and met Dr. Ben Carson. It is incredibly important that we look at the pipeline and mentorship programs because even if you have the skill set, if you don't see it, you don't believe that you can be it."

The Nashville Health Care Council will continue to offer relevant and timely virtual events during the COVID-19 pandemic. Register now for the Council's Trends & Influencers Series Pre-Election Discussion featuring David Wasserman, U.S. House Editor and Political Analyst, The Cook Political Report on October 8, 2020. For more information on upcoming programs at


Related Articles:

Recent Articles


Yesterday, counsel for the American Hospital Association and the five other national groups and three individual hospital systems that sued the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) over its failure to halt drug company actions that undermine the 340B drug pricing program sent letters demanding that the offending drug companies immediately halt their illegal activities.

Read More

Study Shows Drastic Increases in Opioid-Affected Births

The rate of mothers who had an opioid-related diagnosis when delivering their baby increased by 131% from 2010-2017, as the incidence of babies diagnosed with drug withdrawal, known as neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS), increased by 82% nationally during that same time period.

Read More

Case Management: Enhancing Revenue, Care Transitions and Patient Outcomes throughout the Hospital System

The importance of hospital and health system case management has grown exponentially over the past 10 years and is now getting attention from leaders throughout the healthcare industry.

Read More

TennCare Block Grant Waiver Approved

More than a year after submitting Amendment 42 to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) requesting a waiver to increase flexibility in the administration of the state's Medicaid program, Tennessee has received an affirmative nod to move forward.

Read More

OptumInsight and Change Healthcare Combine to Advance a More Modern, Information and Technology-Enabled Health Care Platform

Accelerates work to improve outcomes and experiences and lower the cost of health care

Read More

AHA Statement On Dc Circuit Court Of Appeals Decision On Mandated Disclosure Of Negotiated Rates

Read More


Read More

Sen. Alexander's Farewell Address

Read More

Alexander: Congress Set to End Surprise Medical Billing

Proposal to protect patients from surprise medical bills and resolve payment disputes between providers and insurers included in government funding legislation that the Congress will vote on this week

Read More

Survey Reveals Real Concern for SNF Viability in Wake of Covid

Read More

Email Print



Powered by Bondware
News Publishing Software

The browser you are using is outdated!

You may not be getting all you can out of your browsing experience
and may be open to security risks!

Consider upgrading to the latest version of your browser or choose on below: