We know, for example, that obesity, diabetes, and heart disease are more prevalent among people of color. If you have any of these conditions and contract COVID-19 you run a much higher risk for severe complications and death.
But biology and behavior are just part of the picture. Where we work, whether we have access to quality health care, what we eat, and other socio-economic conditions also drive health disparities.
As we grapple with the effects of these health inequities on our daily lives, we cantake simple public health measures to help prevent the immediate spread of this disease, starting with wearing a mask, washing our hands, and maintaining six feet of distance from others. But that won’t be enough to end the pandemic in communities of color.
As the leaders of two public health research agencies, we know we can’t just devise solutions from Washington, D.C. We must also work with those who are most trusted, respected, and closest to these hard-hit communities.
Through joint local efforts, we believe we can ensure that the best, most accurate information reaches these communities, and that they are informed about, and included in, diverse research studies essential for developing safe, effective treatments, and vaccines for all.
That is why the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has issued a $12 million award to support teams in 11 states to establish the Community Engagement Alliance (CEAL) Against COVID-19 Disparities.
This Alliance has already brought together community- and faith-based organizations, doctors, patients, researchers, community advocates and minority-serving educational institutions.
For weeks, from Sacramento, California to Jackson, Mississippi, we have been listening carefully—to concerns, fears, very practical questions, and ideas.
Our sincere hope is that, working together, we will find ways to overcome COVID-19 in a manner that takes into account the history, cultural differences, and unique input and needs of the people it affects most.
How do we do this? We start by offering reliable and easily understood information based on science, by dispelling myths, and by explaining the importance of research.