Racism and inequality continue fueling coronavirus-related deaths among Black and Brown Angelenos. Councilmember Marqueece Harris-Dawson recently hosted a public forum for residents in South Los Angeles to hear directly from Black public health professionals about how to protect our community from COVID-19. Representatives from Charles Drew University, Black Women for Wellness, and the LA County Department of Public Health joined Harris-Dawson to discuss the implications for COVID-19 in South LA communities.
“At every turn, communities of color carry the heaviest burdens. Keeping my constituents informed and engaged is vital as we continue to learn more about the COVID-19 pandemic and move forward with vaccine trials,” said Councilmember Marqueece Harris-Dawson. “We must continue to use what we know about this pandemic to center the health of Black/People of color in an equitable manner. My office remains committed to educating our constituents and helping them connect to public health professionals to increase transparency.”
Trust between physicians and patients is an important determinant of positive health outcomes. However, incidents of medical abuse towards African Americans have eroded the trust between doctors and patients of color. From racial and ethnic disparities in pregnancy-related deaths to fraudulent, ill-intentioned test trials where the health and safety of Black patients were not the priority, there are countless examples of Black patients having their rights violated by medical professionals. Black Women for Wellness joined the forum to elevate the importance of centering the experiences of Black Angelenos and addressing this legacy of mistrust to improve health outcomes for residents. Black Women for Wellness addresses the disparate health outcomes experienced by women of color, and works with policy leaders and health organizations to address the root causes of health inequality.
“We look at the intersections of socioeconomics and health to imagine what healthy living looks like in our communities,” said Nourbese Flint, Policy Director at Black Women For Wellness. “We see the intersections between lack of access to healthcare, housing and economic opportunities as catalysts for the negative health outcomes Black people across gender identities experience. We are committed to developing our personal power, by holding leadership accountable and supporting leaders focused on health equity.”
Charles Drew University of Medicine and Science is the preeminent medical HBCU on the west coast and prepares diverse health professionals, dedicated to social justice and health equity to serve communities through outstanding education, research, clinical service, and community engagement. Dr. Carlisle joined the community forum to highlight the importance of public health professionals representing the communities they serve.
“Charles Drew University of Medicine and Science was founded as a direct result of health inequities in Black and Brown communities,” said Dr. David M. Carlisle, President and CEO of Charles Drew University. “We exist to address the distrust between medical professionals and the communities they serve by preparing and training health providers to serve under resourced communities like South Los Angeles.”
During the call, residents discussed the history of medical distrust in Black and Brown communities and how local public health officials are responding to the needs of South LA residents. COVID-19 continues to demonstrate the need for services directed specifically at communities in need. The LA County Department of Public Health provides information and resources to help residents make the best decisions for the health of their loved ones and community. New health officer and medical expert, Dr. Muntu Davis joined the forum to ensure residents understand the Department’s role in educating communities on public health matters.
“The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health helps communities by analyzing and communicating relevant public health data, and will continue to identify partners and work with them to meet the needs of the communities we serve across Los Angeles County, said Dr. Muntu Davis, Health Officer at LA Public Health Department.
According to a recent UCLA Report, Latinos and Blacks living in Los Angeles have almost twice the COVID-19 case and death rates of whites due to the intersections of race and poverty. As flu season approaches and the prospects of a COVID-19 vaccine become more real, this forum provided a space for South LA residents to have their questions and concerns directly addressed by public health experts. Watch a recording of the full community forum at http://ow.ly/FeVR50BWP5H.