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There is an old saying in the African American community: “When White America catches a cold, Black America catches pneumonia.”

This saying speaks volume during the current coronavirus pandemic engulfing our lives.   Over the past month, there have been more national conversations and articles written about the coronavirus and health disparities. There exists a degree of acknowledgement, yet no coordinated governmental or health responses to address the problem.

The problem is African Americans are disproportionately represented in new cases and mortality rates. For example, in the state of Louisiana, African Americans make up 33% of the population yet account for 70% of deaths from coronavirus. Similar statistics are present in Michigan, Illinois, and other states across the country. Yes, underlying health conditions such as hypertension, diabetes and asthma play a role, but these are not the only factors.

Additionally, this pandemic has shined a light on the already existing racial, social and economic inequalities present in our society. I want to be clear there is absolutely not an inherent gene or predisposition that makes African Americans predisposed to coronavirus, but rather the biases, racism and existing inequalities that amplify the problem. A brief summary of the underlying health disparities include underinsurance, poor access to quality care, food deserts, housing segregation and education.

To address a problem, we have to acknowledge it. The health disparities related to coronavirus have been acknowledged and reported by multiple sources. It is now time to begin to discuss solutions to this problem. This pandemic is a microcosm of our existing society; thus, short and long term solutions need to be developed.

Below, I am listing short-term immediate, actionable steps we all can advocate for in our respected communities: