The COVID-19 pandemic posed excessive hardship in cities like Flint that were already dealing with structural inequalities and extreme health and wealth disparities. In March, Flint saw tremendous racial disparities in COVID-19 cases and deaths, with African Americans representing less than 60% of the city’s population, but an astounding 85% of COVID cases and 91% of COVID deaths. Again, we found ourselves faced with the task of meeting our city’s needs and getting resources out to the community quickly and equitably.
In March, I catalyzed the establishment of the Greater Flint Coronavirus Taskforce on Racial Inequities with the goal to bring awareness, analysis, and action to the root causes of disparities to ensure racial equity within and across organizations and systems to reduce the disparities we saw early in the COVID-19 pandemic. The work supports individuals and organizations to develop and implement processes to challenge existing patterns of institutional power, jettison the hierarchy of human value, and to promote equity.
The Task Force includes multiple sectors and stakeholders representing health, business, government, philanthropy, nonprofits, and community activists. We addressed the many systemic barriers related to inequitable access to COVID testing and treatment in the health care system, a gap in resources to support individuals and families in being able to shelter in place and remain solvent, and community-wide dissemination of information from trusted and credible messengers across multiple platforms.
As a community we eliminated the African American COVID-19 disparities in Flint by mid-July. The relative risk of COVID infection went from a nearly eight-fold disparity in March to an under-representation of African American COVID cases in July. These statistics have persisted through the present.
We kept our focus on the long-term systemic barriers residents face in having equitable access to what they need to be healthy and thrive.
Read the full article about long term solutions to promote equity by Isaiah M. Oliver at CFGF Medium.
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