Statement on Structural Injustices in the COVID-19 Era

Over two decades ago, during another pandemic, Dr. Paul Farmer, in Infections and Inequalities, declared that “critical perspectives on emerging infections must ask how large-scale social forces come to have their effects on unequally positioned individuals in increasingly interconnected populations.” Sadly, his call remains equally, and perhaps even more, salient in the COVID-19 era, throughout the United States and the world. For COVID-19 is not just revealing of societal inequities but a parasite to our host of persistent structural injustices across socioeconomic, racial, and political contexts. In our current environment, the many wounds of vulnerable and marginalized populations have not only been reopened but also deepened. Such wounds cannot be managed with superficial treatments. Ongoing structural injustice in a society calls for clear-eyed, concerted, and extended commitment to structural transformation.

The faculty and staff of the UVA Center for Health Humanities and Ethics stand fast in our responsibility to challenge these structural injustices, and to promote justice and healing in their stead. We recognize that while these injustices are often clearly, even painfully apparent, the path to their resolution is yet largely uncharted and will require persistent questioning, action, reflexive listening and open dialogue, and re-action. Guided by our core values of community and civic engagement, moral imagination, and interdisciplinary and interprofessional inquiry, we commit ourselves to this work of healing, using critical health humanities and healthcare ethics, teaching, and practice. In so doing, we invite others to join us, and welcome collaborations across our university and throughout diverse communities in our state, nation, and world. Together, we will work to enact changes toward creating the thriving, brave, and compassionate world in which every person is valued, treated with fairness and kindness, and assured of equal opportunity.