Introduction and Welcome
A quarterly e-newsletter in which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Office of Minority Health and Health Equity (OMHHE) shares news, perspectives and progress in the science and practice of health equity.
Director of CDC’s Office of Minority Health and Health Equity
Fall is slowly finding its way to Atlanta. Leaves are beginning to take on their fall colors, daylight is getting shorter, mornings are cool and afternoons still warm. Now 20 months into the pandemic, what is different about fall 2021? Last year this time, we didn’t have a vaccine. Vaccination coverage is increasing, but not nearly to the level we want to see. College football stadiums are filled, and the hospitality industry is on the upswing. Families and friends who live miles and miles apart have been able to reconnect. Schools are open.
COVID-19 is still wreaking havoc in communities around the country, and flu season is coming. The stress and strain of the demands and disruptions in what was once our normal lives are taking a toll. Increasingly, public health workers are expressing their fatigue and grappling with pandemic-related physical and mental health issues. Healthcare workers are on the verge of burnout and our healthcare system and resources have been severely taxed. Susan Taylor, founding editor of Essence Magazine, wrote, “In every crisis there is a message. Crises are nature’s way of forcing change–breaking down old structures, shaking loose negative habits so that something new and better can take their place.”
What awaits us on the other side of the pandemic? What positive changes will be adopted? Right now, what are you doing to take care of yourself? What are you doing to stay connected to those simple pleasures that can revive you at the end of a long day, week, or month? How well are you prioritizing the urgent and essential over what you would be doing if we weren’t in a day-to-day sprint to save lives? I know all too well that these are tough questions to answer, but we must take the time to examine and prioritize our own physical, mental, and social health as we press through what remains of the pandemic and move toward recovery and resilience. Let’s demonstrate self-love and self-care in the same ways that we are dedicated to our work and the nation’s health.
I invite you to pause, grab a cup of coffee or tea, and delve into the Fall 2021 edition of Health Equity Matters! As with every edition, we provide important and timely public health information and updates. Read about the urgency of adult vaccinations – particularly, as we are headed into flu season and the flu and COVID-19 are co-circulating. Get a flu shot and then be an Ambassador for vaccinations. Share your story of getting vaccinated for COVID-19 and the flu. Counter the misinformation and disinformation that is rampant in social media and in some communities. Just last week, I had the pleasure of being part of the Ad Council’s No Time for Flu campaign. This is a partnership between CDC, the American Medical Association, and the Ad Council to promote flu shots among African Americans and Hispanics and Latinos who have lower vaccination coverage. I had a wonderful day of TV and radio interviews along with Dr. Willie Underwood – a member of the AMA Board of Directors. Visit their websiteexternal icon and get answers to frequently asked questions about the flu and find out locations near you where you can get a flu shot.
Learn about CDC’s first ever agency-wide health equity science and intervention strategy or CORE. Not long after her arrival, Dr. Walensky directed the creation of CORE which when fully implemented stands to transform how we practice public health by centering achieving health equity and eliminating health inequities across all of our programs. This is a bold and ambitious commitment, but one that is overdue and historic. In recognition of Dr. Walensky’s unprecedented health equity leadership, we honor her as a Health Equity Champion. In less than a year, Dr. Walensky has singularly shifted how we imagine the possibilities of what can be achieved through a comprehensive, evidence-based approach to reducing longstanding health disparities.
As you read through the Fall edition of Health Equity Matters, you will discover new resources such as the Health Equity Guiding Principles for Inclusive Communication, the Let’s Take Charge! Campaign designed by the FDA’s Office of Minority Health and Health Equity to promote greater participation of under-represented groups in lupus research, and recently launched programs to end the HIV epidemic. There is much more in this edition, but I don’t want to give it all away. Find a comfortable place in your home or office, get a refill on your coffee or tea (water is always good!), and read the entire issue. We promise it will be worth the time. Then, share it with colleagues, friends and family members. They will thank you!
I cannot end without thanking the University of North Carolina – Gillings School of Global Public Health for the honor of receiving the Harriet Hylton Barr Distinguished Alumni Award. Being the 2021 recipient of this coveted award has been among the highpoints of this year – right up there with briefing President Biden and Vice President Harris! I remain humbled and thrilled by this recognition.
Be well. Stay safe.