SPH Dean to Chair Statewide Emergency Task Force on Coronavirus & Equity
Goal is to mitigate impact on vulnerable populations such as low-income people and immigrants
Sandro Galea, dean of the BU School of Public Health and Robert A. Knox Professor, will chair a statewide emergency task force on coronavirus and equity. The goal is to help ensure that vulnerable populations, such as low-income people and immigrants, aren’t disproportionately affected by the disease—or by steps taken to combat it.
“It is our responsibility to keep in mind who is bearing the brunt of the consequences,” says Galea, who will chair the panel with Cheryl Bartlett, CEO of the Greater New Bedford Community Health Center and a former commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.
The Massachusetts Public Health Association (MPHA) convened the Emergency Task Force on Coronavirus & Equity to rapidly develop policy recommendations for communities especially vulnerable to COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, and its economic repercussions. This includes low-income individuals, people of color, immigrants, low-wage workers, those who are food insecure or homeless, people with disabilities, and older adults.
“From the family in shelter to the child who depends on getting a healthy breakfast and lunch at school to immigrants fearful of coming forward because of draconian federal policies—we are only as prepared as our most marginalized communities,” says Carlene Pavlos, MPHA executive director.
The task force, which was still being assembled on Wednesday, will include representatives from a variety of health and human services groups, food-access organizations (such as food banks), groups serving homeless and elderly populations, as well as labor and disability groups. Recommendations will be announced on Friday, March 20, at the State House.
When we have both large-scale events and measures taken to mitigate these large-scale events, they have social and economic consequences that are felt by people who are poor and marginalized.
“When we have both large-scale events and measures taken to mitigate these large-scale events, they have social and economic consequences that are felt by people who are poor and marginalized,” Galea says. “Yes, we need social distancing, yes, we need to do the right things, but we need to be constantly cognizant that the people feeling those consequences are typically not those of us who are making those decisions.”
The MPHA is a nonprofit statewide organization focused on eliminating health inequities and creating healthy communities through advocacy, community organizing, and coalition-building.
“It is vital that we develop concrete solutions to protect Massachusetts residents who are already burdened with the effects of discrimination, oppression, and poor health. The fate of everyone in our society is bound together—something which is always true, but is seldom as crystal clear as it is now,” Pavlos says.
The University announced on Wednesday that it is moving all classes to online only, and students who were away for spring break were advised not to return to campus after break ends Sunday, March 15—but residence and dining halls will be open for those who need to remain on campus because of particular challenges. The move came one day after Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker declared a state of emergency, as coronavirus cases in the state surged to 92 and passed 1,000 in the United States.