Black COVID-10 Doctors Consortium

Volunteers with the Black COVID-10 Doctors Consortium test people Monday, April 20, 2020, for the novel coronavirus at the Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church parking lot.

—ABDUL SULAYMAN/TRIBUNE CHIEF PHOTOGRAPHER

A group of African-American organizations is calling for decisive government action amidst the coronavirus pandemic in a letter released Tuesday.

Recent news reports have highlighted the link between the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on African Americans and the longstanding economic and health disparities in the U.S.

In response, NAATPN Inc., in collaboration with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the Council on Black Health, have drafted a letter detailing immediate actions that need to occur as well as long-term solutions to health justice issues that must be addressed in order to eliminate health disparities.

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Delmonte Jefferson, executive director for NAATPN Inc. and convener of the group, says the pandemic has exposed the country’s major health inequities in the U.S.

“The root cause of the COVID-19 disparities on African American populations is embedded in our country’s unjust history that devalues African American health and well-being,” he said in a news release.

He said it is imperative that the country devises short- and long-term plans to achieve true health equity.

“This would be an unparalleled opportunity for federal, state, and local governments to show leadership — to implement permanent solutions that ensure the health and well-being of all residents — giving particular priority to those disproportionately experiencing pervasive, cumulative forms of social and economic disadvantage and health risks,” said Shiriki Kumanyika, a research professor at Drexel University and founder of the Council on Black Health.

The call to action comes as African Americans with COVID-19 are more frequently hospitalized and are dying at higher rates, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and information released by individual states.

“Increasingly, the data on COVID-19 underscore why our organizations exist and are joining forces at this time: Now more than ever, Black people are paying the price for our short- and long-term policy failures through compromised health and an early demise. Enough is enough,” said Derrick Johnson, president and CEO of the NAACP.

The letter, now signed by more than 25 African American-led organizations, requests that government agencies, corporations and philanthropic organizations develop a coordinated strategy to provide COVID-19 relief for the most affected communities.

The letter’s short-term requests include:

• Mobile COVID-19 testing for underserved communities

• COBRA coverage for workers losing health insurance due to COVID-19 furloughs

• Data on race/ethnicity and location for COVID-19 incidences, hospitalizations and deaths

• A credible strategy to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in African-American communities

Long-term requests include:

• Investment in health care workers and systems that are culturally sensitive

• Increased federal minimum wage and the poverty threshold

• Investment in pre-k and elementary education to include before and after-school care, as well as healthy meals

To view the letter visit www.naatpn.org/covidcollective.

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