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Massachusetts Medical Society Announces Policies on Telehealth Access, Disparities in Maternal and Infant Health, Housing Inequity

Policies that aim to increase access to telemedicine via expansion of broadband internet access to underserved populations, combating racial disparities in maternal and infant health outcomes, and addressing housing inequities during public health emergencies were among those adopted by the physician-members of the Massachusetts Medical Society.

Physicians and medical students from across the state attended the organization’s Interim Meeting December 5 and considered resolutions proposed by members to the House of Delegates, the medical society’s governing body. Resolutions that were accepted by the House of Delegates are now organizational policies that will steer the medical society’s advocacy efforts at the state and federal level.

Internet Access Is Essential in Population Health
The Massachusetts Medical Society will encourage health care systems, and potentially other parties, to 1) assess their community’s level of access to internet-capable devices and internet connectivity as essential components of population health care systems planning to mitigate disparities and 2) support the right to maintain that access as a municipally owned public utility. Further, the medical society will advocate for affordable broadband internet access as a public utility for lower-income, historically marginalized, senior, and rural citizens and in underserved Massachusetts communities.

Disparities in Maternal and Infant Health Outcomes
The Massachusetts Medical Society affirms that racial and ethnic disparities in maternal mortality, severe maternal morbidity and infant mortality are inextricably connected to racism. The medical society will advocate for legislative and regulatory policies that improve maternal and infant health outcomes and promote health equity by eliminating racial and ethnic disparities in maternal and infant health outcomes for all birthing individuals and families of color.

Pandemic Has Exacerbated Housing Inequities
The public health effects of the pandemic have been numerous and devastating, and the Massachusetts Medical Society has adopted organizational policy that intends to support those who experience housing insecurity during public health emergencies. The medical society will advocate for streamlined, timely, easily accessible, and equitable rental assistance, especially around emergency rental assistance during public health emergencies.  Additional advocacy efforts will push for state payment of rents and utilities of those unable to pay during public health emergencies. The organization has committed to working with community stakeholders and advocating for the development of innovative alternative uses of public and private spaces and facilities during public health emergencies to accommodate those in need of shelter and adequate housing to prevent the spread of disease.