Informing Pennsylvania’s COVID-19 Health Equity Response

Statement of Problem

The COVID-19 pandemic has not impacted all Americans equally. Many vulnerable and marginalized populations are at higher risk of exposure, severe illness, and death from the disease, as well as from indirect harms such as food insecurity and loss of health insurance coverage. PolicyLab experts have raised concerns related to the pandemic’s disparate effects on racial and ethnic minorities, immigrant families, children living in rural areas, the economically challenged, and those with mental health and substance use disorders, among others. Policy and systems changes are urgently needed to address immediate disparities related to COVID-19, as well as the underlying issues that have created them.


In order to address these disparities, the Pennsylvania Department of Health convened a COVID-19 Health Equity Response Team in April 2020. Diverse stakeholders from across the Commonwealth participated in subcommittees to develop recommendations for addressing health disparities. These were shared with Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine, the Lieutenant Governor’s COVID-19 Task Force on Health Disparity and other key stakeholders.

PolicyLab supported the state throughout this process. In April, PolicyLab experts submitted a memo with preliminary feedback on the state’s COVID-19 health equity response plan. We were then invited to facilitate a subcommittee on economically challenged individuals, low-wage workers and un- and underinsured populations. The subgroup submitted its final recommendations in June 2020. In addition to addressing concerns specific to COVID-19, many suggestions also strive to address longer-term, underlying issues related to insurance coverage, access to health care and the social determinants of health.

In addition to directly facilitating this subcommittee, PolicyLab experts joined a range of other subcommittees including those related to pregnant women and parents of extremely young children, immigrants, those with limited English proficiency and rural Pennsylvanians. PolicyLab specifically drafted a recommendation that COVID-19 data collection should include metrics on preferred language.

Next Steps

PolicyLab will continue to facilitate the subgroup on economically challenged individuals, low-wage workers and un- and underinsured populations, and PolicyLab experts will maintain their involvement in their respective subcommittees. By supporting the Pennsylvania Department of Health as it works toward implementation of the recommendations, PolicyLab’s work will help address COVID-19 specific and chronic health disparities across the state. In addition, PolicyLab will review the final report from the PA Health Equity Response Team and provide feedback on how the final recommendations could impact children.

This project page was last updated in July 2020.

Suggested Citation

Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, PolicyLab. Informing Pennsylvania’s COVID-19 Health Equity Response [Online]. Available at: [Accessed: plug in date accessed here].