When acclaimed Barbadian author Karen Lord envisions life on a small island during a pandemic in her story plague doctor, he never thought That within weeks of its publication, “history will be present, and fiction real life.” Lord’s Short Story of Fiction, in the first book by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) take us to a better place, was written months before the coronavirus emerged. With a calm conscience, it envisions a deadly infectious disease engulfing the world and follows Dr. Audra Lee as she fights to save her 6-year-old niece. The heroine not only faces illness but also a society that serves the rich at the cost of others.
This latter point was particularly relevant here in the United States where COVID-19 hit communities of color dramatically harder than others. Centuries of structural racism have created many barriers to health including difficult living conditions; limited educational opportunities; high risk jobs; lack of access to paid leave and inequality in care. historical trauma have also driven deep rooted distrust of medical establishment. All of these interconnected factors increase the risk for both exposure to COVID-19 and the worst possible outcomes from the virus.
a series of elections The enormous financial impact of COVID-19 was also highlighted – with more than 40 percent of Latino, black and Native American households each reporting serious financial problems during the coronavirus outbreak – including using up all or most of their household savings. includes doing.
As we reflect on the year and the ongoing pandemic, we share comments by a series of experts featured on RWJF’s Culture of Health blog in 2020. They provide critical perspective on the health equity implications of COVID-19, and offer some hope for the future. .
We must put equality at the forefront through activism.
Yolo Akili Robinson. is the founder and executive director of Black Emotional and Mental Health (BEAM) Collective and Recipient RWJF Award for Health Equity. in a Q&A dwayne proctorIn this book, Robinson explores how the pandemic’s disproportionate impact on communities of color has affected mental health. Noting figures demonstrating higher COVID-19 mortality rates for black Americans, Robinson says the numbers are troubling, but not surprising:
we have already been living in the space zone So that black and brown people are not healthy—in food deserts, or where water is not safe to drink, for example. and we endure untreated chronic conditions that Lead to worse outcomes of COVID-19, while struggling to access health care. So, when COVID-19 began to spread, we were already in trouble because of systemic and structural failures… are more likely to dismiss the symptoms. We have a long way to go to eliminate all the “ism” within the system.
Speaking weeks before the murder of George Floyd touched off a national soul-searching race, Robinson said:
I think of the early days of the HIV epidemic and all the ways advocates had to pressure the government to respond, over a period of years. He advocated and protested until the government put its weight behind finding an effective treatment. It also had a very real impact on the structure of health care and the way programs were designed to help people with HIV. We, too, need to force a discussion and remind ourselves of what led to the start of national conversations and the passionate change. It was Martin Luther King, The Black Panthers, Gloria Steinem, Angela Davis, Fanny Lou Hamer, Black Lives Matter, ACT-UP. They got in our faces, even protested, and they shook us away from the collective amnesia and wishful notion that racism or sexism or homosexuality do not exist. We now have to use our voices through art, media and politics to keep equality issues at the fore.
Maintaining social contact while maintaining physical distance minimizes the impact of the pandemic.
Yolanda Ogbolu Families write about pre-pandemic self-isolation Driven by the fear of violence in the West Baltimore neighborhood of his childhood. Now a nurse researcher, Ogbolu is working to understand the effects of “situational isolation,” which she defines as self-isolating behavior driven by situations in a social setting and built environment to help out and develop friendship gets tough.
To reduce this isolation while combating COVID-19, the community has rallied in a number of key ways, from taking decisive action Protect elderly nursing home residents from viruses, Attractive Trusted Voices in Community Outreach even more.
In Baltimore, food, housing and electricity are considered basic needs and are being addressed urgently for many people. digital divide Which has been an obstacle to equal education through the gift of electronic devices and free internet services to the most vulnerable. the state pending cases For drug, prostitution and certain other crimes to protect vulnerable citizens in prisons. Baltimore ministers have made Virtual “Freedom Schools” and delivering free meals to community members. The city’s schools have served more than 50,000 meals to children. and their families need it.
Others in the community working and providing essential services include health professionals, grocery workers, truck drivers and hospital environmental healthcare workers. Caregivers, mothers and fathers, like those in my study, are reporting via social media that for the first time they can spend quality time with their children, serving as educators and health promoters. They are making collages of the best moments of their lives, having dance parties, and bonding with family and neighbours.
She concludes, “One of the lessons I hope we’ve learned from standing with family, friends, and community is how feeling connected can help all of us not only survive, but thrive. Might as well be.”
Health care, public health and social services must work together to address the racial inequalities that COVID-19 has intensified.
Chris Little, Deputy Director System for Action (S4A), focuses on the social determinants of health and how and The pandemic has exposed race-based gaps in the country’s health system.
Little points to a “through-line” between S4A’s work, the failed response to the pandemic, and the “racial injustice that has given rise to such protests. Black and Latino communities have borne the brunt of the pandemic—the risk of infection.” And from the severity of the disease to its economic transformation.”
“[F]Ragged systems prevent us from treating the whole individual,” he writes, continuing,
Based on 16 years of data from hundreds of communities across the country, an RWJF-supported study found that deaths from heart disease, diabetes and influenza significantly decrease when collaborative mechanisms are in place to promote population health. Huh.
I’m not naive enough to believe that if we can just align our systems, we’ll remove racial inequalities, but I do believe we’re seeing the power of better alignment on communities of color foregrounders. Early findings from that 16-year data set suggest that communities with strong multi-regional networks have fewer COVID-related deaths and lower infection rates. That information will certainly inspire action.
He concludes, “My personal and professional journeys have led me to the same awareness – systems need to work together to advance health equality. Let us all join forces to advance that alignment.” be.”
Data drives meaningful action.
Erica Burroughs-Girardi, an Action Learning Coach County Health Ranking and RoadmapProvides strategic guidance to communities that want to use data to drive meaningful action to improve health and advance equity. This year, the County Health Rankings team spoke with leaders from black, Latino and Native American communities.
An important lesson emerged: Used strategically, segregated data (local-level data divided by race, ethnicity, gender and age) can help facilitate rapid response, making it easier to see Gets where resources are needed the most, such as new test sites. Data can also guide community responses in a frightening environment where Politics and public health collide, but its availability varies greatly from state to state and community to community.
Local-level data segmented by race, ethnicity, gender and age is critical to understanding community challenges, with COVID-19 being no exception. Since the advent of the virus, rapidly expanding access to disparate data has been paramount for evidence-informed decision-making.
As response and recovery efforts evolve, communities will continue to need accurate, accurate and transparent data to make informed decisions about resident needs. However, it is also important to recognize that these data may not capture the full story in a community. Not every community has access to universal testing.
Additionally, many residents fear how their information may be used—or don’t seek care—due to a lack of health insurance, immigration status concerns, and more. All these factors affect the collected data and their availability.
Look back in 2021 to read more perspectives on supporting a similar COVID-19 recovery. In the interim, explore the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation collection of resources and perspectives on COVID-19.
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