Health Equity Taskforce Gets $500,000 to examine Disparate Impact COVID-19 on Black Louisianans

Gov. John Bel Edwards announced Friday (April 24) that the Louisiana COVID-19 Health Equity Taskforce will get $500,000 from the Governor’s COVID-19 Response Fund to examine causes and solutions to the high rate of deaths from the coronavirus within Louisiana’s African-American community and other impacted populations.

At one point during the on-going pandemic, African-American Louisianans accounted for 70 percent of the state’s COVID-19 related deaths. The rate has since dropped to by 10 points. But with African Americans comprising less than 33 percent of the state’s population, the rate of deaths among Black in the state is still incongruent when compared to percent of the population they represent.

“The disparity in deaths is especially worrisome, and we need to do everything we can to determine why this is happening,” said Gov. Edwards. “African-Americans make up approximately 33 percent of our population yet account for nearly 60 percent of the deaths from this virus. We have an obligation to look for answers and this task force will provide recommendations for addressing the health inequities affecting all communities that are most impacted by this virus.”

He continued, “Funding is essential for that work to begin as soon as possible. One death is one too many in any community, and I am committed to helping everyone in our state live healthier lives.”    

On April 10, Gov. Edwards created the Louisiana COVID-19 Health Equity Taskforce in response to the disparate death rate among Black residents, senior citizens and other disproportionately impacted groups.

He formally announced the $500,000 grant to the Taskforce during his April 24 press briefing.

The taskforce is led by Dr. Sandra Brown, dean of the Southern University’s College of Nursing and Allied Health, and Dr. Thomas LaVeist, dean of Tulane University’s Public Health and Tropical Medicine.

Other members of the taskforce include: New Orleans East Hospital CEO Dr. Takeisha Davis, Dillard University Chief Medical Officer Dr. Corey Hebert, Dr. Kathleen B. Kennedy of Xavier University of Louisiana College of Pharmacy, and Urban League of Louisiana President & CEO Judy Morse Reese. To see a complete list of taskforce and subcommittee members, click here.

As part of the taskforce’s work, members will conduct assessments of the status of the state’s response as it affects vulnerable populations and issue a series of actionable reports with recommendations to assure that the state emerges from the pandemic in a stronger position – focused on health equity and improved health outcomes for all Louisianans.

The funding will be used to conduct the following:

  • Science-based research
  • A comprehensive evidenced-based analysis of the determinants of health equity that influences racial health disparities
  • Evidenced-based analysis of interventions that positively impact health equity and address disparities.  
  • An examination of the population dynamics (political, economic, social, technological, and legal) that are indicative of health equity and disparities to formulate a state wide dashboard.
  • Provide health awareness educational media campaigns.
  • Assessments of the status of the state’s response as it affects vulnerable populations and the impact of COVID-19.

The Governor’s COVID-19 Response Fund was funded by $400,000 grants each from the Irene W & C.B. Pennington Family Foundation, the Baton Rouge Area Foundation and the Huey and Angelina Wilson Foundation—creating a $1.2 million fund. Gov. Edwards issued the first grant from the fund on April 9 with a $100,000 grant to the Three O’Clock Project, a non-profit group provides health meals to children after school and during the simmer. The organization expanded its meal distribution services after public schools were closed in response to COVID-19.

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