We Do Not Have to Accept What is Unacceptable

The CDC, the acknowledged global leader in public health, has been severely criticized in how it has managed its role in the COVID-19 pandemic.  Health equity champions were deeply disturbed when we heard CDC was not collecting or publishing data on the impact of COVID-19 on racial and ethnic populations. That notwithstanding, the NRC has been heartened by the fact that CDC appointed a Chief Health Equity Officer (CHEO) to head up its COVID-19 response unit. We were even more heartened to learn that the CHEO is Dr. Leandris Liburd, who for years had overseen the REACH initiative and who has been an unwavering champion of the importance of communities in establishing health equity. We congratulate Dr. Liburd on her appointment.

Below is Dr. Liburd’s email describing CDC’s Health Equity Strategy.  We know that this calls for all of us to be fully involved in every possible way we can to make health equity a reality.  And, in doing so, we will demonstrate our refusal to accept what is unacceptable, and will take our place in bending that long arc towards justice.

Dear Charmaine,

I hope this message finds you well. Since May, I have been serving as Chief Health Equity Officer for the CDC COVID-19 Response and have been working to build an “all of response” strategy to address COVID-19 disparities and pursue health equity. On Friday, July 24, CDC released our Health Equity Strategy to improve the health outcomes of people disproportionately affected by COVID-19. This strategy provides a framework for an ongoing and comprehensive response to reducing disparities using data-driven approaches. It represents CDC’s commitment to foster meaningful engagement with community institutions and diverse leaders, to lead culturally responsive outreach, and to reduce stigma, including stigma associated with race and ethnicity so that everyone has the opportunity to be as healthy as possible.

As you know, long-standing systemic health and social inequities have put many people from racial and ethnic minority groups at increased risk of getting sick and dying from COVID-19. A growing body of evidence finds that people of color – including African Americans, Hispanics and Latinos, and American Indians and Alaska Natives – have been put at increased risk of getting COVID-19 and becoming severely ill or dying. Discrimination, which includes racism; limited access to healthcare; educational, income, and wealth gaps; occupational risks; and crowded or unstable housing are associated with more COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths in areas where racial and ethnic minority groups live, learn, work, play, and worship.

Achieving health equity requires valuing everyone equally with focused and ongoing efforts to address preventable inequities, historical and contemporary injustices, and the elimination of health and healthcare disparities. Community- and faith-based organizations, employers, healthcare systems and providers, public health agencies, policy makers, and others all have a part in promoting fair access to health. We must work together to ensure that people have resources to maintain and manage their physical and mental health, including easy access to information, affordable testing, and medical and mental health care.

We do not have to accept what is unacceptable.

Let us continue to strive toward health equity, address the long-standing inequities in health and social systems, and build upon each other’s efforts to reduce health disparities. Read CDC’s COVID-19 Response Health Equity Strategy. Learn more about factors that put racial and ethnic minority groups at increased risk. Determine which steps you and your organization can take to promote fair access to health for everyone. And share these resources and news about your efforts with your partners.

Contact Us

National REACH Coalition
301 West College Avenue, Suite 16
Silver City, NM 88061
info@reachcoalition.org