Ensuring Equity in COVID-19 Planning, Response, and Recovery Decision Making

December 2020

HIP developed this Equity Lens Tool in partnership with Big Cities Health Coalition to support health departments in more directly and routinely addressing equity in COVID-19 planning, response, and recovery decision making.


COVID-19 has forced health departments into unprecedented territory with respect to the scale and scope of decisions made to protect the health of the public. According to some Big Cities Health Coalition (BCHC) health departments, the urgency and difficulty of rapid decision making in the pandemic—particularly when health departments are situated in a larger emergency response and incident command structure— requires a more vocal and persistent focus on equity to ensure it doesn’t fall by the wayside.

Big Cities Health Coalition commissioned Human Impact Partners to create this Equity Lens Tool for members to use in the context of COVID-related decision making. Our goal is to provide a resource for health departments and their sister agencies to:

  • Create momentum and (re)energize the practice of applying an equity lens in COVID-19 decision making by demonstrating its importance and necessity
  • Assess how specific decisions will be experienced by specific communities and ensure these decisions work for the people most impacted
  • Suggest an approach for engaging with and remaining accountable to communities historically disenfranchised from public decision making

The Equity Lens Tool can be used by anyone working in a health department’s COVID-19 planning, response, and recovery contexts— particularly those leading or coordinating—who aims to ensure equity in a proposed decision. It will not be a panacea to solve the persistent inequities in our society, yet it does provides one approach to share decision-making power and directly improve people’s lives.

We are providing the Equity Lens Tool in different formats, along with the companion Pocket Guide with the expectation that users will adapt the document for use in their own jurisdiction. Please feel free to use any aspect of it that will support your practice, and let us know if you have any questions or feedback!

To learn more about this resource, please contact HIP Co-Director Lili Farhang at lili@humanimpact.org.