By Frederick H. Lowe
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health has awarded Morehouse School of Medicine a $40 million grant to fight Covid-19 in racial and ethnic minority and socially vulnerable communities.
Morehouse, which is based in Atlanta, was awarded the grant as Florida, Texas, California and Arizona are experiencing a surge in new coronavirus cases.
The surge has forced some states to pause the reopening of businesses, including bars and restaurants out of fear the infection rate will surge. Some governors also have ordered residents to wear masks to prevent the virus’ spread.
Morehouse will lead a three-year project initiative titled the National Infrastructure for Mitigating the Impact of Covid-19 within racial and ethnic minority communities. The Morehouse School of Medicine will work with community-based organizations nationwide to deliver education and information resources to help fight the pandemic. Morehouse also will establish the National Covid -19 Resiliency Network
Lisa A. Cooper, a practicing physician and epidemiologist, said more Black Americans are dying from Covid-19 because of health inequities.
“People from these communities already have higher rates of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and lung disease, so these are the folks who are actually going to get at more risk of becoming seriously ill with Covid-19,” Dr. Cooper said during a Q&A at Johns Hopkins University & Medicine Coronavirus Resource Center.
She added: “There’s a confluence of all these different factors—not having access to food, not have access to good quality housing, being in crowded in small houses where there are multiple generations and unable to engage in social distancing or stock up on groceries for several weeks at a time, having to use public transportation, to work in essential jobs, and having less access to health care. These are all manifestations of structural racism.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that Non-Hispanic American Indian or Alaska Native persons have 5 times the hospitalization and death rates compared with non-Hispanic white persons,
Non-Hispanic Black persons have a rate approximately 5 times higher for death and hospitalization from Covid-19 than non-Hispanic whites
Hispanic or Latino persons have a rate approximately 4 times higher compared with non-Hispanic whites.
The initiative “will create the opportunity to measure the effectiveness of interventions being deployed to mitigate the impact of Covid-19. The results should lead to a newfound knowledge base to better prepare for and respond to future pandemics, especially in vulnerable communities,” said Morehouse School of Medicine President and Dean Valerie Montgomery Rice.