As our Progressive Maryland/Marylanders United statewide call focuses on health care this afternoon -- a MoCo student activist reminds us here why health disparities play such a part in the uneven effects of COVID-19 in our diverse communities.
This pandemic, and our ability to respond, has laid bare the many inadequacies and the terrible inequities in our healthcare system, as well as the failures of the Trump Administration. The death toll and rate of infection has fallen disproportionately hard on communities of color and low income communities.
Please join usTODAY -- Thursday, May 21 -- as we talk about the COVID-19 health crisis. The problems are heart wrenching and staggering but there are solutions! Solutions and plans that will help workers, at-risk groups in our population, and all of us as we battle against the coronavirus and its impact.
Learn how to become part of the solution for the health care we need. Click here to RSVP.
- Meet healthcare heroes like Kristy Fogle from the Maryland Progressive Healthcare Coalition from Ricarra Jones from SEIU 1199; and hear from them on the need for PPE, testing and improved working conditions.
- Hear from Delegate Gabe Acevero (D-39) about some of the ways Maryland’s Black and Brown residents are being impacted and ways in which the state can and should respond.
- Get an update from People’s Action on federal healthcare legislation.
- Have an opportunity to ask questions and take action!
/By Avery Smedley/ This pandemic makes it glaringly clear, now more than ever, segregation is a public health crisis. It’s no coincidence we’re seeing cases like Chicago, where black residents make up 30% of the population but 72% of the city’s coronavirus deaths. Although the courts mandated the end of school segregation in the 1960s, adequate measures were not taken to end segregation on this front, or on others. Due to this, segregation persists, and black and brown people’s health suffers because of it-- especially in the apex of a pandemic. Minorities are less likely to have access to doctors, healthcare, healthy food, adequate housing, transportation or areas with healthy, clean atmospheres. Therefore, in this nation, race and income are social determinants of health. In this nation, you pay for being of color and in lower income strata with your life.
Black and brown communities have been left defenseless in the face of this virus because they’re already weakened by the substandard quality of life in their neighborhoods. Minorities are more likely to live near places with environmental hazards like pollution, soot, toxic waste, and more, all of which are seriously detrimental to people’s health. We’ve seen this in places along the Baton Rouge-New Orleans stretch, which was a majority black community first, home to 150 poison- producing, petrochemical plants second. Now, cancer is such a fact of life there it’s been coined “Cancer Alley”. We’ve seen it in Flint, Michigan, too, where the majority-black Flint had an egregious amount of lead in the water, which has been known to cause irreversible brain damage.
Black and brown people are also more likely to live in inadequate housing, where the mold, lead and other urban decay leads to a myriad of health issues. Studies show non-whites are disproportionately burdened compared to whites. But because these families are low-income, they cannot afford to move or complain to their landlord.
Minorities are less likely to have access to healthcare, too, because they either can’t afford it or there aren’t many practicing doctors in their area. This issue is exacerbated by the lack of transportation in communities of color, which makes getting to and from the doctor even more difficult. I can attest to this. When I was little, a trip to the doctor’s was a day trip on the bus, whereas for my peers who had parents that drove, they’d be in and out before lunch time. I’m lucky my family even had the economic standing to be able to afford missing this much time away from work. Many families do not and are forced to neglect health conditions.
Concomitantly, many neighborhoods with high concentrations of people of color are also food deserts, meaning there’s little to no access to stores that sell affordable and healthy food. There is a strong correlation between food deserts and conditions like diabetes.
It’s evident that being black and brown in this country is a pre-existing condition, leaving these people, who are often already on the frontlines as essential workers, more vulnerable to the virus. These health disparities prove the exigency of current-day segregation, and how deeply entrenched it is in every aspect of our society. This is why it is so urgent for communities to continue to have conversations about present day segregation. It’s why I’m fighting in my community, through Students Toward Equitable Public Schools, to change our school boundaries in order to better reflect our diverse community. Because it’s been made alarmingly clear, segregation harms us in more ways than one.
Avery Smedley is a MoCo student organizer with Students Toward Equitable Public Schools.