by Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr. —
The COVID-19 pandemic across America and throughout the world is still a serious danger to public health for all communities, but especially for African American and other people of color communities. African Americans are still disproportionately negatively impacted by this deadly virus.
This is why more COVID-19 testing for Black America is so important in 2021: African Americans comprise 13 percent of the U.S. population, but more than half of all COVID-19 cases, and nearly 60 percen of all COVID-related deaths in the U.S., were in cities with large Black populations. Now that federal-government approved vaccines are available, it does not mean that COVID-19 testing is no longer needed.
The National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) is very concerned about the current state of health disparities and inequities that are realities for the majority of African Americans. Facts, data, and truth about the pandemic are vital to our future.
According to a recent study by the Pew Research Center, a majority of Black Americans (61 percent) now say they plan to get a COVID-19 vaccine (or that they’ve already received one), compared to only 42 percent in November, 2020. As trust increases, we need to also increase access to COVID-19 vaccinations and testing in our communities to create better health outcomes.
The Black Press and the Black Church are two fundamental trusted institutions in our communities. We are pleased to learn about a new emerging partnership with Black church leaders which is creating greater access to much-needed COVID-19 testing in our communities. A partnership between Quest Diagnostics, Choose Healthy Life and the United Way of New York City is bringing COVID-19 testing and education to Black communities in cities across the U.S., and they are working with trusted voices in Black churches to increase participation.
The pandemic has also made it even clearer that Black Americans need access to additional resources to take control of their health. In Chicago for example, Black residents make up 30 percent of the population but account for 70 percent of COVID-related deaths, and the majority of Black COVID-19 patients who have died in Chicago also had underlying health conditions, like respiratory problems, hypertension, high blood pressure, and diabetes.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, heart disease is the leading cause of death for Black Americans, and Black people experience risk factors that contribute to heart disease like high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol more often and earlier in life compared to White people. Thus, overall healthcare testing is needed throughout Black America.
Getting tested for important health issues – and understanding the results – empowers people to make informed and sometimes critical healthcare decisions. In fact, 70 percent of medical decisions are based on results from diagnostic tests. Because there aren’t always obvious symptoms of a health issue, testing is one of the most effective ways to identify health concerns that may need to be addressed.
Quest Diagnostics is committed to creating partnerships with others to increase access in Black and other underserved communities. It’s time for the entire healthcare system to step up with similar commitments – with access to treatment and preventative care – to help Black communities move past this pandemic on an even ground with White America. Access, testing, and equity are keys to achieving and maintaining good health for all.
(Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr., President/CEO of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA), also is Executive Producer and host of “The Chavis Chronicles” (TCC) on PBS TV stations weekly across the United States.)