Rainbow PUSH, National Medical Association Develop COVID-19 Manifesto for Communities of Color

Dr. McDougle
Dr. Leon McDougle

Driven to address the disproportionate impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on African-Americans and other communities of color, the Rainbow PUSH Coalition (RPC) and the National Medical Association (NMA) developed a plan of action, which, they say, can be immediately implemented to reduce the possibility of “irreparable harm” from the pandemic on these communities.

The plan of action, titled “Response to the Coronavirus/COVID-19 Pandemic: A Public Health Manifesto,” provides guidance in such areas as the communication of prevention messages and up-to-date information; collection and reporting of data by demographics, including race, ethnicity, gender and ZIP codes; screening; access to testing; protection for care providers; collection and reporting of involuntary do-not-resuscitate orders; protection of vulnerable populations from inclusion in certain clinical trials and experiments; protection of incarcerated persons; elimination of costs for screening and treatment for COVID-19 and related conditions, including medical follow-up and aftercare; aid to African countries for COVID-19 response; and the critical shortage of African-American medical professionals.

“This global pandemic has amplified the effects of pre-existing health disparities, structural impediments, and the ongoing harm done by inadequate strategies to address the dangers of COVID-19 in the African American community specifically, and communities of color overall,” the manifesto states.

In an emailed interview with The Network Journal, NMA president-elect Leon McDougle, M.D., explained how the joint manifesto came about. “The Rainbow PUSH Coalition leadership invited trusted messengers of the African-American community to engage in development of what became the 12-point COVID-19/Coronavirus Public Health Manifesto. Reverend Jesse L. Jackson Sr., founder and president of the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, said it best: we are in a ‘moment of darkness’ and we must ‘illuminate this crisis’ of coronavirus,” he stated.

“Progress will be monitored by using a COVID-19 Public Health Manifesto Scorecard similar to what’s used to monitor strategic plan implementation,” he added.

Dr. McDougle, who also is a professor of Family Medicine with tenure and first chief diversity officer at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, helped to lead the task force that developed the manifesto. Other members of the task force were senior leaders of the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, including Rev. Jackson; as well as current NMA president Oliver Brooks, M.D.; Adam J. Milam, M.D., Ph.D., a faculty associate in the Department of Mental Health at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and a resident in anesthesiology at Cedars-Sinai medical center in Los Angeles; and singer/political commentator Santita Jackson.

While actions such as shelter-in-place and worship-in-place apply particularly to individuals in particular, other aspects of the manifesto can be implemented by state and local health departments and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to improve access to screening and diagnosis for high-risk groups, including African-Americans, Latinx, American Indian/Alaskan natives and persons who are incarcerated; by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA); hospitals and health systems; the Federal Bureau of Prisons; chief executive officers for federal and state prisons; and law enforcement leadership to provide protection of essential workers, front-line healthcare staff, persons in nursing homes and staff, persons who are incarcerated and staff, Dr. McDougle said.

To date, the manifesto has been distributed to the RPC Coalition of Clergy, Civic, Legislative, Legal and Health professional leaders; diversity, equity and inclusion leaders at 154 medical schools in the U.S. and 17 in Canada; the Federally Qualified Health Centers Region V Minority Health Interstate and Tribal Data Quality Workgroup; Ohio Association of Community Health Centers; and to the leadership of the National Association of Community Health Centers.