Gov. John Bel Edwards created the Louisiana COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force, which will look at how health inequities are affecting communities that are most impacted by the coronavirus.
“We know that right now 70 percent of our deaths in Louisiana from coronavirus are African Americans. This is a disturbing trend and one that deserves our attention, which is why we are engaging a group of leaders right now while the crisis is still ongoing,” Gov. Edwards said. “When we talk about health equity, we mean everyone has the opportunity to attain their highest level of health. The great thing is that the findings and recommendations made by this Task Force will help everyone better access quality care and improve health outcomes. It will also leverage our research capabilities and intellectual brainpower in a collective manner to tackle this daunting issue. I am asking our universities and research institutions to lead this effort.”
The immediate assignment is to make sure communities with health disparities are blanketed with good information on COVID-19 safety and prevention; provide the medical community with best practices and protocols for treating communities with underlying medical conditions and health disparities; and ensure testing availability and ease of access for all communities.
Dean Thomas LaVeist was recently appointed co-chair of the Louisiana COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force. As a leading expert in issues of equity and health, LaVeist is playing a key role in addressing alarmingly high rates of COVID-19 cases and deaths among African Americans.
LaVeist has spoken extensively on the deep-seated reasons behind inequalities in the U.S. that lead African Americans to live sicker and die sooner than their peers. Living in one of COVID-19’s epicenters, in New Orleans, he has a unique perspective from which to discuss this outbreak, what it means for African Americans, and what we should be doing now and in the future to address these issues and put an end to crippling inequities that have endured for generations.
Sandra Brown, dean of the Southern University’s College of Nursing and Allied Health, also co-chairs the Louisiana COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force. The task force includes physicians, academic researchers, nurses, public officials, and hospital administrators from across the state. It will initially focus on the following: