No one would have expected when we brought in the new year that just five months into 2020 we would have experienced a health pandemic that would kill more than 371,000 people globally and infect more than 6 million (both as of June 1). Although the cases continue to spike in some areas, such as here in Washington, D.C., we are beginning to recognize some startling statistics. Death rates are higher for African Americans than other groups across the country – three times higher, according to some sources. It will be some time before we know the definitive reasons behind this, but health disparities for minority groups have long been an issue for this country. We must continue to work toward closing the gap for underprivileged communities, addressing the health needs of those who need it most, and encouraging our Black communities to pay particular attention to their health.
And as if the shadow of COVID-19 is not enough to face, we have, yet again, witnessed the disproportional treatment of Black Americans. On May 25, in the span of about ½ hour, law enforcement officers arrested and went on to murder George Floyd, an African American man who had been accused of paying for cigarettes with a counterfeit bill. His death was brutal, gut-wrenching and unimaginable. And Americans have said “enough is enough.” The death of Floyd and countless others – Eric Garner, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery – was the tipping point. Anger and frustration has led to protests, some peaceful and others that have turned violent and deadly. And as we watch the aftermath unfold and we continue to dismantle the racial injustice that continues to claim the lives of innocent African Americans, some things become apparent. We must fight for greater accountability for police and all leaders, and we must bridge common understandings as strategies in the aftermath.
Americans are facing two very different crises – one affecting health and the other affecting human rights. Both, however, can be defeated by the same response: greater economic investment and stimulators in the communities that are disproportionately affected to eradicate inequities. Improving economic opportunity, especially for young African Americans, in the face of staggering unemployment numbers is crucial in creating a more tolerant, inclusive and unified America. A recent CNN Health article highlights collective input from several doctors’ groups, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association and the American College of Physicians, emphasizing that racism is a public health issue and making a call to put an end to police brutality. We believe this to be true and we will continue to put into place programs and opportunities that address these topics.
We hope you’ll join us as we continue to fight to make healthcare accessible for racial and ethnic groups, and as we work toward being the voice for those who need a platform and putting into place the change that the world so desperately needs.