Dr. Regina Benjamin, former US surgeon general under President Barack Obama, joined CNN's "The Color of Covid" special on Sunday.
"When we first started to talk about this disease we said the elderly and those with with underlying conditions were at higher risk. Most people thought of people with cancer, elderly people, people with breathing difficulties. People we did not consider were those with high blood pressure, heart disease, cardiovascular disease, those who smoked," Benjamin said. "What we did not expect is these people would be coming in much faster and would deteriorate faster and died more frequently.
Being prepared in the communities that need it: Benjamin said knowing this, there is a need to be in the communities that are most affected with these conditions.
"The research shows us that certain things cause these health disparities. Things like: we know that our financial health is directly related to our physical health. We know education is just as important for our health. The death rate is two-and-a-half times that of a person who does not have a high school diploma as it is for a person who has 13 years or more," she said.
"Your zip code is a better predictor of your health outcomes than your genetic code," Benjamin said.
Need for better public policies: Benjamin said she hoped the country would come out of the pandemic with better public policies.
"It's not just people in African American populations and hispanic populations. It's people in rural areas and my communities. We have the same types of problems with high blood pressure and diabetes. We smoke too much. All of those things that lead to cardiovascular disease are in rural communities and we will see the same thing. It’s poor people," she said.