Georgetown University Interviews Dr. Christopher King on the Challenges and Opportunities of COVID-19 for DC Black Communities
In this interview with Georgetown University, Dr. Christopher King King explains the potentially devastating impact COVID-19 can have on black residents and shares efforts that are underway to mitigate loss. Taking into account the 2016 report The Health of the African American Community in the District of Columbia: Disparities and Recommendations he led and presented for the DC Commission on African American Affairs, he notes the disparities reflected in the data.
“Black residents are disproportionately burdened by many of the chronic diseases that increase risk of death when infected with COVID-19. According to the most recent data, the diabetes rate in black people is seven times higher than white people. More than 20% of black residents smoke tobacco – the highest percentage when compared with all racial/ethnic groups. This statistic may explain the higher incidence of lung cancer”.
He also describes how the concept of social distance is different for some African Americans: “Black residents are more likely to depend on hourly wages, have multiple forms of low-wage employment, work in high-risk frontline capacities and have restricted access to the internet. These conditions make social distancing a concept that can only be carried out for the privileged”. In other words, “poverty is a public health issue”.
As for the response to the public health emergency, King says that investments to prevent the pandemic from hitting black communities so hard “should have occurred decades ago”, and, “what we are witnessing in the United States is the result of what happens when communities of color are disenfranchised or marginalized by design”. Measures should include health system preparedness, equitable testing, and epidemiological surveillance with sociodemographics that include race, gender, age and neighborhood, to “pinpoint specific populations for resource allocation and targeted prevention messaging”.
“All actors in the healthcare ecosystem, including community health centers, skilled nursing facilities, pharmacies, transportation providers, play a critical role and should receive the appropriate level of funding support and/or resource allocations”. “In the spirit of humanity, this is a cue to action for cross-sectoral racial equity activism throughout the nation”, he concludes.