Headlines & Helpful Information, Community
By: Kristen Hobbs
There’s been a lot of
news lately. So much news that if you haven’t been following every headline,
every day of the week, you might have missed something.
But that’s why I’m
here. As the Manager of Program Evaluation for Susan G. Komen’s African
American Health Equity Initiative, I’ve been keeping up with headlines about
COVID-19 and health equity.
Here’s some important
news that you might have missed:
African Americans are disproportionately affected by the COVID-19
pandemic. We know the inequities present in the pandemic are also present in
breast cancer, which makes this unacceptable fact of particular importance to
A recent CNN
article reported that, while Black Americans make up only 13.4 percent of
the U.S. population, counties with higher black populations account for more
than 60 percent of COVID-19 deaths.
This statistic would make sense if the same were true for counties
with higher white populations. But it is not, and it further underscores the
inequities we see in the healthcare system that have been exacerbated due to
Wisconsin, South Carolina, Missouri, Michigan, Kansas and Washington,
D.C. are just are a few of the states and/or areas in the U.S. where African
Americans are dying at higher rates from COVID-19.
So, what is happening in these areas that is causing the
One major driver is what’s called “social determinants of health.”
This is a complex issue, but it includes racism and
discrimination, health care access and quality, food security, economic
security, transportation and many more. All of these things affect where
African Americans live, work, eat, play and pray.
It is imperative that we pay attention to these social
determinants of health and always seek to advance equity in all areas of
Now, you may be asking, “How do we know all of this is true?” We
can track it through publicly available data. Most states have caught up and
are now tracking race demographic data in relation to COVID-19 cases. This data
will be a tremendous help to epidemiologists in our collective fight to flatten
the curve and get the world back to interacting.
On the global scale, a recent BBC article looked at
the controversy surrounding whether or not Africans should participate in
Some scientists are noting that diversity in clinical or vaccine
trials should be improved, and Africans’ participation would bring that needed
Global activists caution against this, however, noting that
Africans should not be treated as “guinea pigs.”
This issue, too, is quite complex.
We know that vaccines should be tested in all populations just as
any therapy, to ensure their efficacy across populations. But we can’t ignore
the global historical medical injustices that have been committed on Black
Past injustices have built a culture of mistrust of the medical
and scientific systems around the world, so any vaccine trials that take place
should be equitable, safe and protect the rights of its participants.
Now, until the curve is officially flattened, and there is a
viable vaccine on the market, I encourage you to:
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