Buffalo Center for Health Equity, UB Community Health Equity Research Institute, Call on Public Health Leaders, Elected Officials to Immediately Invest Resources in Most Vulnerable Communities to ‘Avert Minority COVID-19 Pandemic Catastrophe’
The Buffalo Center for Health Equity, in partnership with the University at Buffalo Community Health Equity Research Institute, has issued a call for immediate action by State, County and City leadership to close the widening gap in the area’s COVID-19 response strategy, investments and actions as relates to underserved minority populations living in the city of Buffalo’s already most compromised neighborhoods.
In specific, the African American Health Equity Task Force, which provides governance to the Buffalo Center for Health Equity, and the University at Buffalo Community Health Equity Research Institute, are calling for immediate actions including:
- The development of a minority-focused action plan to provide testing for COVID-19 in accessible facilities within the African American community, i.e. local vacant schools that are spacious and located within the community.
- The inclusion of African American health professionals in the planning and execution of a testing and treatment program such as Dr. Willie Underwood, III, MSc, MPH, FACS, Executive Director, Buffalo Center for Health Equity; Dr. Raul Vazquez, founder, president and chief executive officer of G-Health Enterprises; and Dr. Kenneth Gayles, one of the area’s leading cardiologists, among others.
- The development of a robust community public information campaign targeted at the African-American community to provide clear, accurate information on how to slow the spread of the virus, how to recognize the symptoms and what to do if you are ill.
“We are insisting our local and state government officials immediately open a seat at the table to assist in strategizing, planning and implementing – and frankly — to avert a minority COVID-19 pandemic catastrophe,” said Task Force convener Pastor George Nicholas, MDiv, Senior Pastor, Lincoln Memorial United Methodist Church. “We cannot afford to continue to be anecdotal in our approach. We must have access to tests, we must have data, we must have the resources needed to save lives and minimize the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in the African American community and the City of Buffalo.”
Minority Health Data Facts Demand Priority Investment
According to continued information being communicated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; people with heart disease, lung disease such as asthma, and underlying illnesses including diabetes are at high risk for serious disease from COVID-19.
Simultaneously, according to most recent Erie County Health Assessment data:
- 3 in 5 African Americans living in Buffalo die prematurely, twice the rate of the white population.
- African Americans living in the city’s East Side experience higher rates of poverty.
- suffer from higher rates of lung cancer and infant mortality.
- have a 50% higher rate of hospitalizations for heart disease.
- have a 250% higher rate of hospitalization for diabetes compared to white population,
“The cold hard facts of the COVID-19 pandemic tell us that prioritizing investment of public health resources in the African American community in Buffalo will be a highly cost effective investment in limiting the toll that coronavirus infection will take on the entire region — including the enormous human toll and the strain on the healthcare system that is coming,” said Pastor Nicholas.
“We, the Buffalo Center for Health Equity, in collaboration with the University at Buffalo Community Health Equity Research Institute, urge our public health leaders and elected officials to develop a three point strategy to addressing the COVID-19 pandemic focusing on prevention, testing and grief/mental health.”
“Investing in regions like the East Side of Buffalo, a predominantly African American community, is investing in populations that are most vulnerable to serious COVID-19 disease and most likely to need hospitalization. This approach will maximize the impact of the interventions to the benefit of our entire community,” said Timothy F. Murphy, MD, SUNY Distinguished Professor; Senior Associate Dean for Clinical and Translational Research; Director, Clinical and Translational Science Institute; Director, Community Health Equity Research Institute.
“In order for public health interventions to have maximum impact in reducing the toll that coronavirus infection will take on our communities and our healthcare system, it is critical to be strategic in applying these interventions. The Social Determinants of Health create a greater urgency for the creation of a plan to work in this community. Having greater inclusion of African American leadership in the planning and implementation of COVID-19 response strategies is one of those interventions.”
Minority Testing Plan Immediately Needed
In addition to African American leadership, the development of a minority-focused action plan to provide testing for COVID-19 in accessible facilities within the African American community is being raised as an immediate priority.
According to Dr. Willie Underwood, III, MSc, MPH, FACS, Executive Director, Buffalo Center for Health Equity, Erie County has the lowest rate of COVID-19 tests performed per capita of all urban counties in the state (<0.7 per 1,000 residents) and only a proportion of these tests have been performed on residents of the city of Buffalo.
“So few tests for COVID-19 infection have been performed on East Side residents that there is little or no data upon which to rely to make strategic investments,” said Dr. Underwood.
“Hotspotting, the method of determining where high healthcare utilizers are to implement cost saving, proactive prevention and treatment measures, has been proven to be effective in establishing where resources are spent,” he added. “It is impossible to use this proven method against COVID-19 if the data is not available. Data on where the virus is, and what areas are being affected is impossible to obtain if tests are not available or being given.”
About The African American Health Equity Task Force (AAHETF)
The African American Health Equity Task Force (AAHETF) was convened by Pastor George Nicholas, MDiv, Senior Pastor, Lincoln Memorial United Methodist, and Kinzer M. Pointer, MCM, Pastor, Agape Fellowship Baptist Church. The AAHETF’s vision is to eliminate race/ethnicity-based health disparities among African Americans in the City of Buffalo by addressing the social determinants of health. Through collaboration with its community partners, the AAHETF focuses on research, advocacy, policy, program development, community engagement, assessment, education, and consulting. https://www.buffalohealthequity.org/
About The Buffalo Center for Health Equity
In 2019, the AAHETF achieved a major goal with the establishment of the Buffalo Center for Health Equityhttps://www.buffalohealthequity.org/ to be the epicenter for research, community engagement, policy development, advocacy and neighborhood development, as well as programmatic initiatives that empower the community to achieve goals of ending health disparities in African American communities.
Willie Underwood, III, MD, MSc, MPH, FACS was named Executive Director of the Buffalo Center for Health Equity. Click the following to read The Buffalo Center for Health Equity: Building a Culture of Health & Ending African American Health Disparities 2019 Reporthttps://tinyurl.com/rgmym33
About The UB Community Health Equity Research Institute
The UB Community Health Equity Research Institute will conduct research that addresses the root causes of health disparities, while developing and testing innovative solutions to eliminate health inequities in the region. The vision of the Institute is to ensure that wellness and social well-being become a reality for all people in Buffalo, including people of color residing in underserved neighborhoods and who are more likely to have serious, chronic and often preventable diseases, as well as significantly higher mortality rates.
Timothy Murphy, SUNY Distinguished Professor and senior associate dean for clinical and translational research in the Jacobs School, leads the institute. He is also director of UB’s Clinical and Translational Science Institute.
Leadership also includes the following associate directors: Susan Grinslade, clinical professor, School of Nursing; Henry Louis Taylor Jr., professor of urban and regional planning and director of the Center for Urban Studies, School of Architecture and Planning; and Heather Orom, associate professor of community health and health behavior, and associate dean for equity, diversity and inclusion, School of Public Health and Health Professions.
Faculty researchers and students from 10 UB schools will collaborate within the institute including; Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, Nursing, Public Health and Health Professions, Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, Social Work, Architecture and Planning, Law, Management, the Graduate School of Education and the College of Arts and Sciences. It will also leverage the expertise and resources of UB’s Community for Global Health Equity, the Clinical and Translational Science Institute and the Office of Research Advancement. http://www.buffalo.edu/ubnow/stories/2019/12/community-health-equity-research-institute.html