Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America, Inc., recognizes the unprecedented impact of the novel coronavirus and COVID-19 on the United States, Israel, and the world. Hadassah honors the memory of lives lost and celebrates health workers and other front-line personnel who tirelessly provide care and essential services to their communities. Hadassah acknowledges the profound social, economic, and psychological impact of the pandemic –especially on women.
In Israel, the Hadassah Medical Organization (HMO) rose to the challenge as a leader in testing, patient care, and research. When called upon to activate its Clinical Virology Laboratory, HMO enabled Israel’s Ministry of Health to dramatically increase testing capacity and efficiency. HMO led the way in instituting universal testing of hospital staff to ensure the safety of patients and employees and developed a Manual of Protocols for COVID-19 that has been shared around the world. With over twenty-five clinical trials and a new process for swifter diagnosis, Hadassah has been at the forefront of testing and treatment innovation and the search for a cure.
Like many conditions, COVID-19 impacts men and women differently. Women are less likely to experience severe symptoms or fatalities, despite higher exposure rates. Advancing basic and translational research on sex differences – especially the study of female immune responses – could lead to clinical applications and treatments that benefit everyone. Understanding how social determinants of health put men, as well as racial and ethnic minority groups, at greater risk for COVID-19 is also essential in the effort to eliminate health disparities and promote health equity.
Women have been bearing the disproportionate brunt of COVID’s social effects, including lost jobs, domestic violence, reduced access to reproductive care, and food, housing, and income insecurity. Added caregiving responsibilities for children and/or sick or elderly relatives – duties more often assumed by women – have elevated stress levels and decreased attention to self-care. Beyond the emotional impact, social isolation can dramatically increase one’s risk for disease. The effects of anxiety and trauma on women’s psychological and physical health – and the health of their families – will last for years to come. The mental health crisis created by COVID-19 presents an immense challenge for the American healthcare system, reinforcing the need to fight stigmas and ensure mental health parity in coverage and service availability.
Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America, Inc,. calls for:
- Investments in the American health care workforce, especially nursing during this Year of the Nurse and Midwife.
- Continued efforts to ensure an adequate and reliable supply of personal protective equipment (PPE), testing supplies, and medical resources, including ventilators and pharmaceuticals.
- Public education around the importance of vaccinations and, once developed, the rapid production and distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine.
- Policymakers and health agencies to prioritize the study of sex differences; improve collection and analysis of public health data, including sex/gender, race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and other demographic factors; expand awareness and promote the importance of clinical trials; and pursue other policies to mitigate health disparities.
Hadassah also applauds its members, Associates, and supporters who, in the face of social distancing, found ways to help their communities by collecting PPE, making masks, delivering food, and reaching out to vulnerable members and neighbors – exemplifying the power of connection through Hadassah.