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Disproportionate Effect of COVID-19 on Communities of Color

On May 18, 2020, a New York State Joint Assembly and Senate Legislative Hearing was held to explore solutions to the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on communities of color.  The First Vice-Chair of the Commission to Dismantle Racism and Discrimination, Hon. Rose H. Sconiers, testified on behalf of the Greater Buffalo Racial Equity Roundtable.  The Roundtable was convened in 2015 by the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo and includes, among its members, the Rt. Rev. Sean Rowe.

Current data shows that the COVID-19 pandemic is having a disproportionate impact on minority  communities based on rates of infection, hospitalization and fatalities from the disease.  It has placed a spotlight on the reality that systemic injustices in our society causes the most vulnerable to suffer the most.  The coronavirus is ravaging communities of color that are already struggling with poverty and conflict.

The Roundtable’s work is rooted in data and focused on systems change.   Its analysis of the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on communities of color reveals that that social determinants of health are as follows:

  • 40% of the social determinants of health are related to economic status.
  • 30% of the determinants are related to health behaviors such as tobacco use, diet and exercise, alcohol and drug use and sexual activity.
  • 20% are attributed to access to and quality of care and
  • 10% to physical environment: Air and Water quality and Housing and Transit.

The Greater Buffalo Racial Equity Roundtable has advanced ten initiatives which are captured primarily within the 40% of the social determinants of health related to social and economic factors. These factors include:  education, employment and income, family and social supports and community safety.

The Roundtable also focuses on creating the conditions for systems change, with Narrative Change and Racial Healing as threads which runs through all the Roundtable initiatives.

The Roundtable has partnered with over 250 organizations representing government, business, faith and nonprofit leaders in addressing the social determinants of health.  It will continue to work with this cross-sector partnership in addressing the socioeconomic factors of the social determinants of health.