We all know that 2020 was a tough year. The combination of a worldwide pandemic as well as social and civil unrest led many to wonder why this temporary state of being felt so permanent. Mental health plummeted for many; existing medical conditions worsened; financial and social resources started to deplete; and hundreds of thousands of us said, “goodbye,” forever to our dear ones who lost their lives to an invisible virus.
Amongst it all, health disparities continued to proliferate. According to Endocrine News, “health disparities refer to the unequal health status or healthcare available between groups of people due to differences in their background, physical traits, or their environment.”
Research studies validated that ethnic minority groups were disproportionately affected by COVID-19 in the context of chronic conditions. For example, a study completed by T1DExchange indicated that persons from Black and Hispanic communities were more likely to develop serious diabetes-related complications like diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA)--a life-threatening condition produced from high levels of blood acids, be hospitalized more often with DKA, and have more cases of newly diagnosed type 1 diabetes. Communities of color were also less likely to use diabetes technology such as continuous glucose monitors (CGMs) and insulin pumps, and had worse glycemic control when compared to their Caucasian counterparts.
Relatedly, prevalence estimates of current depression, suicidal thoughts/ideation, and initiation of or increase in substance use was much higher amongst Hispanic adults than for non-Hispanic Caucasian persons, as reported in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. Sources of psychosocial stress included concern about family health, feelings of isolation or loneliness, worry about getting ill from COVID-19 or infecting others, worry about the death of a loved one or persons dying, workplace COVID-19 exposure, and discrimination from being blamed for spreading COVID-19.
Through it all, we wondered, how do we sustain hope? How do we keep moving forward? How do we get through this?
Those living with a chronic condition are no strangers to the range of feelings that came up to these posed questions. Some folks living with diabetes, for example, noted that the rest of the world was catching up to what they were feeling with or without the pandemic. That dreaded daily feeling of not knowing if today was the day that one would fall gravely ill or if it would be “just fine” if the correct precautions were taken. Or, the loneliness that comes with being the only one in a household nursing a dysregulated physical or mental state when everyone else seems to be fine. And the isolation associated with feelings of powerlessness and hopelessness, from the loss of some semblance of control.
As we reflect back, it has us wondering how impactful one event, one person, one illness, and even one intervention could be in turning everything around. The introduction of the COVID-19 virus to one person initiated a worldwide pandemic. And the invention of one vaccine revitalized a sense of hope that we had all lost.We are in awe when we think about how much the power of one aspect of ourselves, our community, our ecosystem can have in changing our lived experience. So why not focus on the power of one today to help us overcome these health inequities that have been keeping our greater society stuck? Digital health is the one frontier where health inequities can be eradicated as one person can have access to infinite behavior change and clinical interventions at the tip of their fingertips. Join One Drop as we work to improve the lives of those living with chronic conditions like diabetes and cardiovascular disease through digital innovation and behavior change.