As the COVID-19 pandemic swept over the United States, the stark observation that African-American, Hispanic and Native American populations were disproportionately affected was met with justified shock and anger. After all, the United States has the world’s largest economy, a high standard of living and a sophisticated health care system and is often held up as a model for many countries.

This narrative of wealth and advanced development obscures very real societal fracture lines resulting from systemic discrimination based on racial, ethnic and socio-economic characteristics. Discrimination that locks significant groups of people out of services and resources has resulted in striking disparities in wealth and health. Prior to the 2010 enactment of the Affordable Care Act, 50 million Americans were uninsured and 39 percent of low-income Americans reported not seeing a doctor because of cost.

Are there effective approaches proven to reduce disparities that the United States can adapt? Yes. As an international development organization, FHI 360 often designs programs tailored to remove barriers to access in various sectors, such as education, economic and civil society participation, health and nutrition. These international programs target populations with the highest needs who are often discriminated against on the basis of gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity or geography.

The United States could benefit from interventions that have worked overseas by examining underlying causes and engaging affected communities in the process of investing in fixes. In low- and middle-income countries, FHI 360 programs work to revise harmful norms in sensitive areas of patriarchy, sexuality, reproductive health and rights, gender identity and gender justice. Similarly, U.S. society will have to face and correct the trust deficit with minority communities and adopt the “nothing for us without us” principle, entrusting communities with the resources needed to address local challenges.

Read the full article about other countries' equitable relief policies for COVID-19 by Otto Chabikuli and Timothy Mastro at Degrees.