The following is an April 8, 2020 press release issued by the Poor People’s Campaign. Learn more about the Campaign here.
Poor People’s Campaign new advisory committee says prevention efforts, treatment must be equitable
The Poor People’s Campaign’s new COVID-19 advisory committee is demanding that hospitals and health departments begin reporting coronavirus cases by poverty and income; race and ethnicity and other relevant demographics including geography to ensure that prevention efforts and treatment are equitable.
“Failure to do so masks underlying inequalities and hampers efforts to ensure prevention is equitable,” the committee members said in their statement, released Wednesday.
Data from Chicago shows, for example, that 72% of those who have died of the coronavirus are African Americans, yet they make up less than a third of the city’s population.
The COVID-19 Health Justice Advisory Committee, made up of experts from schools including Harvard and UCLA, will provide the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival with public health expertise from the point of view of equity and justice.
The committee will compile relevant research and data to help drive the campaign’s action and advocacy around the coronavirus pandemic.
“To mitigate the spread of the virus, everyone must have access to free and respectful medical testing, a safe place to recover, and high-quality medical treatment,” the committee said.
Poor people and people of color must not be denied equal access to care, the committee said.
Guidelines for access to ventilators and ICU beds use the presence of two chronic diseases or conditions in a patient, future life expectancy and status as health and public safety workers as key determinants in rationing care, the committee said.
All of these conditions “disadvantage the poor and people of color,” the members said. “Higher disease burdens and shorter life expectancies among people of color and the poor reflect social failures, not personal ones.”
In addition, limited testing has perpetuated and built inequities in health care access, the committee said. Uninsured and underinsured people are less likely to seek care even when they have severe symptoms because while testing might be free, the treatment can cost thousands of dollars.
The committee was formed at the recommendation of the campaign’s co-chairs, Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II and Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis.
In March, they and the campaign called on the Trump administration and Congress to approve universal health care, expanded social welfare programs, housing security, access to water and sanitation and cash assistance for the 140 million poor and low-income people in this country.
Committee member Dr. Mary T. Bassett, director of the François-Xavier Bagnoud Center of Health and Human Rights at Harvard University, says the work of the Poor People’s Campaign “is closely aligned with our center’s efforts to promote equity and dignity for those oppressed by poverty, racism, and stigma.”
“We are only as healthy as our most vulnerable resident, and I look forward to working with the campaign’s COVID-19 committee to ensure all who call this country home have health care, housing, and employment not just during this crisis, but every day,” Dr. Bassett said.
The members will compile and synthesize public health data and research to the campaign’s national steering committee as well as to its national, state and local organizations. Its members also can provide expert commentary on the disproportionate impact that the COVID-19 pandemic will have on communities of color and people who live in poverty. In addition, the campaign will use the committee’s work to inform its analysis, action and advocacy needed to respond to this public health crisis.
The UCLA Center for the Study of Racism, Social Justice and Health launched on Indigenous People’s Day in 2017 with a focus on racism as a public health problem, said Chandra Ford, founding director of the UCLA center and associate professor at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health.
“Our research is most impactful when it is connected to social justice battles happening in communities and in the streets,” she said, adding that she’s eager to support the vital work of the Poor People’s Campaign.
The committee’s national adviser and coordinator is Dr. Sharrelle Barber, a faculty member at Drexel University’s Dornsife School of Public Health Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics.
“As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to unfold, it will be necessary to use our collective voices and expertise to demand an equitable, just, and moral response to the crisis, “ Dr. Barber said. “We truly believe that this movement of directly impacted leaders, activists, people of faith and people whose moral compass bends towards justice is the balm this country needs in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis.”
Committee members also include: Dr. Whitney Robinson, associate professor at the UNC Gillings Global School of Public Health; Dr. Zinzi Bailey, assistant scientist, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine; Dr. Natalia Linos, executive director, FXB Center for Health and Human Rights; and Veronica Lewin, director of communications at the FXB Center.
The Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival, is building a generationally transformative digital gathering called the Mass Poor People’s Assembly and Moral March on Washington, on June 20, 2020. At that assembly, we will demand that both major political parties address the interlocking injustices of systemic racism, poverty, ecological devastation, militarism and the distorted moral narrative of religious nationalism by implementing our Moral Agenda.