Universal health coverage may be the best way to reduce U.S. health disparities and reverse the country's lowering life expectancy rate, according to two Duquesne University researchers.

The ten countries with the highest life expectancy in the world all have some sort of universal health coverage, typically involving preventative, maternal and infant health services, according to a Journal of Health Care Finance (JHCF) article by Dr. Fevzi Akinci, dean of Duquesne's Rangos School of Health Sciences and Dr. Faina Linkov, department chair and associate professor of the Department of Health Administration and Public Health.

"One of President Biden's first actions in office was to establish an initiative to address racial inequity and systemic racism in federal policies," Akinci said. "Universal health coverage that offers free preventative services and maternity care would be a great start." Such initiatives would be especially valuable for minority groups who disproportionately die from pregnancy complications and preventable diseases, he added.

Noting that health coverage complexity and fragmentation contributed to the country's inability to control the COVID-19 outbreak, the researchers called on the administration for a new focus toward more equitable health care.

"The public health budget has been reduced or stagnant for decades," Linkov said. "With COVID-19 vaccine development and distribution, the government demonstrated that it is possible to do a uniformed health intervention in a very short time frame. If we can take the lessons learned from that experience, we can translate them to improve public health in the U.S."

In a second JHCF article in the same issue, Linkov, Dr. Joseph Coyne of Brown University and other contributors list five recommendations to improve the U.S. public health system's response to COVID now and to meet future health challenges. Improving public health infrastructure is at the core of these recommendations.

The research reflects Duquesne's commitment to promoting health equity in the region, as the university's faculty and students work alongside each other at numerous health clinics, providing chronic disease screenings, flu immunizations and COVID-19 vaccinations, among other services. Students can learn more at Duquesne's Health Administration and Public Health site.

Duquesne University

Founded in 1878, Duquesne is consistently ranked among the nation's top Catholic universities for its award-winning faculty and horizon-expanding education. A campus of nearly 8,000 graduate and undergraduate students, Duquesne prepares students by having them work alongside faculty to discover and reach their goals. The University's academic programs, community service and commitment to equity and opportunity in the Pittsburgh region have earned national acclaim.

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March 26, 2021