The Michigan Coronavirus Task Force on Racial Disparities and its members, including MPHI CEO Dr. Renee Branch Canady, were highlighted by Second Wave Michigan for their part in how COVID-19 changed Michigan’s health care system for the better.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer established the task force in April 2020, when Black people represented more than 29% of COVID-19 cases and 41% of COVID-19 deaths in Michigan, despite being only 15% of the state’s population. The task force was also created in response to last summer’s uprisings in the wake of George Floyd’s murder which shined a spotlight on racism and inequity in the U.S.

“We did a rapid response initially in which we were able to fund numerous health systems, small nonprofits, and a variety of entities to carry out their mission and their vision,” Canady said in the Second Wave Michigan special report. “For some, it was food insecurity. For others, it was transportation to doctors’ offices. Other organizations were dealing with a unique population, [people with] special learning needs, [people who are] visually impaired, or [people who speak] English as a second language.”

The task force’s COVID-19 Testing Workgroup shifted test sites to neighborhood churches, community centers, and other trusted organizations where neighbors felt more comfortable and sought to eliminate language and cultural barriers to make testing even more accessible.

“What it took to get us here, it will take to keep us here,” Canady said. “We have to be vigilant in recognizing that not treating all people the same, but treating people based on their needs, is the way we eliminate inequities. The lessons learned through the task force will be important when we get back to business as usual.”

Read the full Special report: How COVID-19 changed Michigan’s health care system for the better here. The report is part of State of Health, a Second Wave Michigan series about how Michigan communities are rising to address health challenges, made possible with funding from the Michigan Health Endowment Fund.