The COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force will provide recommendations for addressing health inequities caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and for preventing such inequities in the future
WASHINGTON, D.C. (Feb. 10, 2021) – As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to plague the country, it has had a disproportionate impact on some of our most vulnerable communities. Shortly after COVID-19 was first identified in the United States, disparities in inequities were quickly evident by race, ethnicity, geography, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, and other factors.
President Biden and Vice President Harris have released a National Strategy to combat the pandemic that has equity at its core. To help ensure an equitable response to the pandemic, the President signed an executive order on January 21 creating a task force to address COVID-19 related health and social inequities. This Task Force is chaired by Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith.
Today, President Biden and Vice President Harris announced the a twelve of individuals to serve as non-federal members of the Biden-Harris COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force. Among selected is Meharry Medical College President & CEO, James Hildreth, Ph.D., M.D.
James Hildreth, Ph.D., M.D., is the president and CEO of Meharry Medical College, the nation’s largest private, independent historically black academic health sciences center. Dr. Hildreth served previously as dean of the College of Biological Sciences at University of California, Davis and as a professor and associate dean at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Dr. Hildreth is a member of the National Academy of Medicine and an internationally acclaimed immunologist whose work has focused on several human viruses including HIV. He currently serves on he advisory council for the NIH director and as a member of the FDA Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee. Dr. Hildreth had led Meharry’s efforts to ensure that disadvantaged communities have access to COVID-19 testing and vaccines. He graduated from Harvard University as a Rhodes Scholar, from Oxford University with a Ph.D. in immunology, and obtained an M.D. from Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.
These individuals represent a diversity of backgrounds and expertise, a range of racial and ethnic groups, and a number of important populations, including: children and youth; educators and students; health care providers, immigrants; individuals with disabilities; LGBTQ+ individuals; public health experts; rural communities; state, local, territorial, and Tribal governments; and unions.
As Chair, Dr. Nunez-Smith will also ask six additional Federal agencies to be represented on the COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force as federal members. This includes the United States Department of Agriculture, Department of Education, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Housing and Urban Development, Department of Justice, and Department of Labor.
The Task Force is charged with issuing a range of recommendations to help inform the COVID-19 response and recovery. This includes recommendations on equitable allocation of COVID-19 resources and relief funds, effective outreach and communication to underserved and minority populations, and improving cultural proficiency within the Federal Government. Additional recommendations include efforts to improve data collection and use, as well as a long-term plan to address data shortfall regarding communities of color and other underserved populations. The Task Force’s work will conclude after issuing a final report to the COVID-19 Response Coordinator describing the drivers of observed COVID-19 inequities, the potential for ongoing disparities faced by COVID-19 survivors, and actions to ensure that future pandemic responses do not ignore or exacerbate health inequities.