Covid-19 is “exacerbating and exploiting” pre-existing health disparities, US Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams said at a virtual launch event for Shatterproof’s ATLAS resource.
ATLAS is a resource aimed at helping people find addiction treatment, which launched in six states on Tuesday.
Speaking about stigma at the event, Adams said that in his own experience, stigma is particularly apparent in rural communities and in communities of color. “And it’s not a coincidence that these are the same communities that are being hardest hit, in many cases, by substance misuse. And it’s not a coincidence that these same communities have also been particularly hard hit by the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said.
There are a number of known reasons for this, Adams said, which are “rooted both in pre-existing medical, as well as social conditions, that conspire to reduce resilience, opportunity and health.”
“Covid-19 is exploiting and exacerbating these pre-existing health disparities, including substance use disorders.”
Adams said that addressing Covid-19 should remain a top priority, but that other health issues cannot and must not be forgotten. They exacerbate the virus, will be exacerbated by the virus, and they will be present long after the pandemic ends.
Adams finished his address by talking about the public health practices that he called the best immediate defense against Covid-19, shutdowns, and worsening of other diseases and conditions, such as substance abuse.
He highlighted hand hygiene, social distancing, staying home when sick and wearing face masks. “I ask that you please help me reinforce this advice to others,” he said.
“These things,” Adams said, showing a mask, “really are an instrument of freedom.”
Doing these things will help to keep more places opens, including addiction treatment and recovery centers, he said.
“We need to make sure we’re doing everything possible to get people the help that they need,” Adams said. “And part of that is wearing a face covering.”