MPHI’s CEO, Dr. Renee Branch Canady was recently appointed to the Michigan Coronavirus Task Force on Racial Disparities. The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately impacted communities of color throughout our state. For example, while African Americans represent 13.6% of our state’s population, they represent a staggering 40% of the deaths from COVID-19. The health and safety of this state and its residents, communities, and businesses would benefit from a task force devoted to thoroughly studying and developing strategies to immediately address this troubling disparity and the historical and systemic inequities that underlie it.

The task force will advise the governor and will provide valuable insights about how best to engage with the community, local government, and health systems and has specifically been requested to do the following:

• Study the causes of racial disparities in the impact of COVID-19 and recommend actions to address such disparities.

• Recommend actions to increase transparency in reporting data regarding the racial and ethnic impact of COVID-19; remove barriers to accessing physical and mental health care; reduce the impact of medical bias in testing and treatment; mitigate environmental and infrastructure factors contributing to increased exposure during pandemics resulting in mortality; and develop and improve systems for supporting long-term economic recovery and physical and mental health care following a pandemic.

• Perform outreach to ensure all stakeholders in impacted areas are informed, educated, and empowered. Stakeholder outreach will include, but is not limited to, community leaders, partner organizations, tribal governments, local government officials, and other elected officials representing the impacted areas.

• Perform outreach to ensure the general public is informed about racial disparities in the impact of COVID-19, and the work of the Task Force.

• Identify avenues of funding for combatting racial disparities in the impact of COVID-19.

• Recommend changes in Michigan law relevant to combatting racial disparities in the impact of and response to pandemics.

• Identify other issues and provide recommendations to the governor on any other matters relevant to addressing racial disparities in the impact of and response to pandemics.

• Provide other information or advice or take other actions as requested by the governor.