As the toll of illness and death from COVID-19 keeps rising across the country and continues to disproportionately affect racial and ethnic minorities, two NIH leaders are calling on their communities to get the facts and help build trust in science to turn the tide of the pandemic.
“Families and communities don’t count their losses in thousands or hundreds; they count them one-by-one – a father, a teacher, a sister, a friend, a nurse, a son, a Tribal elder, a church member. And these losses hurt,” said Gary H. Gibbons, M.D., director of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, and Eliseo J. Pérez-Stable, M.D., director of the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities.
In a joint op-ed appearing in English and Spanish media outlets around the country, the doctors highlight that Hispanics/Latinos, American Indians, and African Americans have rates of severe illness, hospitalization, and death several times higher than whites, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
While these discouraging statistics do not surprise the scientists, with more than 60 years of combined research experience in health disparities, “these awful numbers also feel deeply personal: they represent our friends, our family, our loved ones, too, as our roots are in these very communities—Philadelphia’s African American neighborhoods, Miami’s Cuban immigrant diaspora,” they wrote.
Their call is part of an NIH effort to establish the Community Engagement Alliance (CEAL) Against COVID-19 Disparities, with the specific goal of countering misinformation about COVID-19 and medical research overall, and “ensure that the best, most accurate information reaches these communities, and that they are informed about, and included in, diverse research studies essential for developing safe, effective treatments, and vaccines for all.”