In discussion with Antoinette Hardy-Waller — Ambassador for Diversity in Healthcare
I’m in conversation with Antoinette Hardy-Waller. She is Chief Executive Officer of The Leverage Network, a non-profit organization committed to the promotion and advancement of African Americans to Governance and Board roles in healthcare. We have been discussing health disparity issues on several occasions, but the COVID-19 outbreak is accelerating the absolute need for change.
The interview is in 4 parts, this is part 1.
Toni, always a pleasure to share ideas. How would you approach ending the current health disparity that African Americans have to deal with?
“As we have all been witnessing, this Coronavirus pandemic has had a devastating effect on our country and particularly on communities of color. As of May 25th, the virus has claimed just over 100,000 American lives. Of that data race and ethnicity are known for only 88% of the deaths. While there still remains an incomplete picture of the toll COVID-19 has had, the existing data reveals deep inequities by race, most dramatically for Black Americans. Death rates for blacks as a result of COVID-19 are 2.4 times higher than that of our white counterparts, and 2.2 times as high as that of Latinos and Asians.
“To eradicate health disparities impacting communities of color, and particularly black communities, we must build a long term framework that starts at the federal level and is executed at the state/regional level. A national strategy that is applied regionally/locally with accountability woven into it.
“The predominate issue we have had historically is ‘who is in the room’ (or not); who has a seat at the table and gets a voice in helping to create a national strategy that will address the disparities and inequities experienced by blacks for centuries. Are there people around the table influencing policy and change, who look like the very people the change will impact?
“While the intent may be well suited, effective change has not and will not happen without the right people in the room. We need people around the table with unique backgrounds, culture, and experience to speak directly to the needs of black communities.
“Given the sparse data, we must first and foremost begin to consistently collect data across race, ethnicity, and age. Only then will we be able to actually understand the true impact on specific communities and populations. Additionally, data will allow for more accurate tracking, monitoring and trending of managing the disease. And we can ensure that measures are being taken that will effectuate change.”