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Future of Healthcare

Health Citizenship in America: How Connectivity Bolsters Health

Photo: Courtesy of Macau Photo Agency

Jane Sarasohn-Kahn

Health Economist

Besides the financial burden, the pandemic has caused additional surprises to the American wellbeing.

Within days of adding “COVID-19” to our vocabulary, U.S. consumers were hoarding food and hand sanitizer to build up pandemic pantries. But the coronavirus pandemic also pushed us, collectively, to meet our other human needs, compelling us to connect in three ways: digitally, socially, and civically. As the number of cases grew in America, the crisis revealed weaknesses in healthcare.

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By April, Americans learned how social determinants of health were determining survival rates for COVID-19. On April 7, President Trump asked, “Why is it three or four times more so for the Black community as opposed to other people?” The combined crises of the pandemic and the risks of living with lower socioeconomic status diminished patients’ health outcomes.

What are social determinants of health?

“Social determinants of health” points to early childhood, work, food, and transportation as basic factors underpinning wellbeing.


Learn more about how Cloudera is driving better health outcomes and lowering the cost of healthcare.


Now, we must add another factor: digital connectivity. If people couldn’t work from home, then that worker was unemployed. For people who could work from home, having a reliable internet connection was the next key.

The second form of vital connection is social. In our lockdowns, growing anxiety and stress have become mainstream public health impacts. Isolation and loneliness have motivated many people to connect to others digitally, like through Zoom and FaceTime.

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A third form of essential connection emerged with the death of George Floyd. The public health crisis converged with a social justice crisis in America. This energized a third kind of connection for civic and community concerns. People have been coming together: protesting in person; attending virtual political gatherings; and, obtaining ballots in advance of the elections.

Besides financially, the coronavirus has taken a deadly toll on America’s physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing. But the public health crisis did give Americans a gift that may keep on giving: a majority of people recognizing that wearing a mask is a sign of caring for each other, one visible sign of connecting as fellow health citizens.

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