Michigan closes the racial well being hole; well being leaders say extra work continues to be wanted | Coronavirus

FLINT, Mich. (WJRT) – Michigan is claiming a win when it comes to the pandemic. This comes after a new report released by the state’s Coronavirus Racial Disparities Task Force reveals a drop in a health gap among minorities.

The report includes a progress report on the task force’s short and long term goals during 2020 and 2021 which ultimately helped close that health gap for those racial and ethnic groups.

“Michigan is the only state that I know of that close the racial disparities gap and COVID cases and deaths,” Dr. Debra Furr-Holden, a Flint epidemiologist said. “We’re the only state that can say that.”

dr Furr-Holden also serves on the Michigan Coronavirus Racial Disparities Task Force which released its report Friday showing a decline of infection and death in marginalized communities.

The report attributes success to reducing disparities in ways like accessibility to masks, testing and vaccinations.

Furr-Holden says for Flint’s racial groups the city’s own Greater Flint Coronavirus Task Force, pushed for success since the start through its community leaders.

“We’ve got the faith community, business sector, education, health, the philanthropic community. So that multi sector approach and those equity centered solutions were the secret sauce for how we were able to close the gaps in Flint and Genesee County,” Furr-Holden said.

The report comes as COVID-19 trends continue in a positive direction, prompting new state and federal guidelines with masking.

Furr-Holden says residents need to proceed cautiously though, and while talks of COVID-19 die down, the work to keep the gap closed is necessary by strengthening infrastructure through state recommendations.

“We’re going to continue to talk about equity in the task force regardless,” she said. “How do we bring those things forward and have it live and in living color across many of our health challenges, and healthcare access issues.”

Recommendations introduced by the Task Force today include:

Strategic testing infrastructure

  • Improve racial and ethnic data collection and use to address racial and ethnic disparities.

  • Continue to fund neighborhood testing and vaccination sites and mobile health units to provide new and existing health and social services to marginalized communities.

  • Require adherence to and monitor compliance of federal requirement to assist with meaningful language access.

  • Establish a process and infrastructure to send alerts to key community partners and/or residents regarding COVID-19 infection rates and problem areas

Primary care connections

  • Decrease the number of uninsured and underinsured Michiganders.

  • Fully leverage Health Information Technology and data to reduce racial health disparities.

  • Implement quality criteria to incentivize primary care.

  • Maximize the use of school-based clinics for expanded care delivery.

  • Educate the public about mental health services.

  • Increased inoculation rates across ages through statewide messaging campaigns.

Centering equity work group

  • Increase culturally competent data collection.

  • Support implementation of the Maternal Infant Health & Equity Improvement Plan (MIHEIP) strategic vision of zero preventable deaths – zero health disparities across its six primary priorities.

Additional recommendations

  • Reduce COVID-19 exposure risks in environmental justice communities related to air quality.

  • Ensure that every home and business in Michigan has access to an affordable, reliable high-speed internet connection that meets their needs.

Established in April 2020, the Task Force consists of a variety of leaders from government, academia, and the private sector, health care, economic development, education, and other disciplines who are divided into three working groups. Each group is charged with providing recommendations related to the following topics:

  • The Centering Equity Workgroup focuses on studying the cause of the COVID-19 racial disparities and recommending policies and practices that can be implemented in the present to respond to immediate needs and the future to combat racial disparities in possible new pandemics or health crises.

  • The Primary Care Connections Workgroup is charged with examining both short-term and long-term strategies to address the needs of uninsured Michiganders and to close the historical gap of relationships with primary care providers amongst communities of color.

  • The Strategic Testing Infrastructure Workgroup is tasked with implementing the infection testing and vaccine delivery infrastructure needed to effectively meet the needs of the Black or African American community and other marginalized communities during the public health emergency.

To read the full report click HERE

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