New Congress Should Work Together to Advance Health Equity

New Congress Should Work Together to Advance Health Equity

The new Congress is the most racially and ethnically diverse yet, and lawmakers have a historic opportunity to address health equity issues that have been neglected for far too long.[1]

Let’s take a look at a few examples of increased diversity in the 118th Congress.

Representative Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) made history as the first Black lawmaker to lead either party in Congress.[2] Leader Jeffries is a longtime member of the Congressional Black Caucus, which now has 58 members — more than ever before.[3]

A record of nine new CBC members were sworn in last month, including Representative Maxwell Frost (D-FL), the first member of Generation Z in Congress and the only Afro-Cuban in the body.[4]
Similarly, nine new lawmakers were sworn into the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, resulting in the largest CHS in history.[5]  One of those new lawmakers, Representative Yadira Caraveo (D-CO), is the first Latina to represent Colorado in Congress, and could emerge as a leading health equity advocate, having spent years as a practicing physician.[6] [7]

Asian-American Pacific Islanders are also seeing more representation in Congress, including at the highest levels of leadership. Representative Ted Lieu (D-CA), was recently sworn in as the vice chair of the House Democratic Caucus, making him the highest-ranking Asian American ever to serve in House Democratic leadership.[8]

The unprecedented diversity of the 118th Congress serves as an inspiration to minority communities across the country. And despite lawmakers’ many different backgrounds, we hope they will unite around creating a more equitable healthcare system in the United States.

One health equity priority of particular interest is increasing diversity in clinical trials. For too long, people of color have been underrepresented in clinical trials.[9] This includes many trials aimed at treating illnesses that disproportionately affect minority communities, like diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease.[10]

Congress must also work to make prescription drugs more accessible and affordable for everyone, regardless of their racial or ethnic background. To that end, lawmakers can address some of the root causes for high costs, including the market distortions that benefit pharmacy benefit managers and other supply chain middlemen.[11] Congress must hold these groups accountable for making medicines harder to afford.

The election of the most diverse Congress in history was a source of immense hope for communities of color. Let’s hope newly elected members of both parties validate that hope by working together to build a more equitable and more just healthcare system for all.