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UC public health expert: African American health disparities to remain post COVID

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By Dan Yount

The Cincinnati Herald

Edward Wallace, PhD. Photo provided

Edward Wallace, PhD, on faculty at the University of Cincinnati and a public health expert with a focus on community health, health disparities and health equity, said by now it has become obvious that Blacks are dying at higher rates from coronavirus pandemic, which is taking a giant foothold in communities that experience health disparities.

“Statistics are showing that African Americans are disproportionately being affected by COVID-19. However, we must remember that African Americans are more likely to have diabetes, high blood pressure, asthma and other chronic disease that puts them at higher risk of suffering from the illness,” says Wallace, associate professor in UC’s Department of Africana Studies, undergraduate director for Africana Studies and director for the college’s Minority Health Certificate.

“When people work an hourly wage (i.e. food service) and are deemed to be working jobs that are essential to the public, they risk exposure to the coronavirus. We are seeing African Americans practice social distancing much later than Whites, largely because they don’t have the luxury to stay at home and work.”   

Wallace added the pandemic affects us all, either directly or indirectly. Eventually COVID-19 will come to an end. However, health disparities will still remain when this pandemic is long gone, and we are going to have to deal with those, he said.     

Wallace currently teaches a course called “Black Healthcare” where students learn why African Americans tend to die sooner than any other racial or ethnic group. His most recent book project, Urban Health Disparities: The Wounds of Policies and Legal Doctrines focuses on policies that harm people of color rather than help the most vulnerable. 

“We know the underlying health conditions in the African American communities, so it is obvious there should be more access to testing being conducted in those communities to see who has the virus,’’ he said. 

Wallace said it is important to provide as much information about coronavirus as possible to underserved communities.

“They know what to do, if the messages are appropriate health messages from people in the community they trust and respect. Our history of abuses by the medical community requires that,” he said.’’

He, like many others, also calls for the collection of more data about the relationship between race and COVID-19. 

Adding to the COVID-19 pandemic is the negative talk about immigration that causes fear about going to a hospital in the Latino communities, he said. “So, we see a high number of Latinos with COVID-19. How we treat one another is important during this time. We have to have empathy for those less fortunate,’’ he said.

We have to do a much better job of being proactive, if we are to see the numbers of COVID-19 cases decrease, he said.

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