Early data in the nation’s coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak indicates that African-Americans and Latinos are disproportionately impacted by the virus underscoring the importance of Minority and Multicultural Health Month, which raises awareness of racial and ethnic disparities in health outcomes
The New Jersey Hospital Association (NJHA) is urging all communities to fight “virus bias.” The groups #EndVirusBias outreach campaign coincides with the April observance of Minority and Multicultural Health Month in New Jersey.
“Some populations face stigma and discrimination when new health threats break out. We’ve seen it with AIDS, with SARS, with Ebola, and now with coronavirus,” said NJHA President and CEO Cathy Bennett. “Such biases can have negative effects on mental health and can perpetuate fear and anger between groups of people. They’re also counterproductive as we work together as a broader community to protect us all from transmission of coronavirus.”
NJHA’s informational messages on social media remind New Jerseyans that “we’re in this together,” with residents playing an important role in stopping the spread of coronavirus. “Viruses don’t discriminate. No group is responsible for coronavirus, and no group is immune.”
NJHA offers the following suggestions for healthcare providers, community and cultural groups, faith-based organizations and all members of New Jersey’s diverse communities:
- Share fact-based information that can counteract misinformation.
- Guard against reinforcing any negative stereotypes of cultural groups. That includes being self-aware of our own implicit biases.
- Acknowledge the fear, anxiety, discrimination and bias that has surfaced with COVID-19.
- Promote social distancing – but not social isolation. Being kind to each other and reaching out to others, especially the elderly or other vulnerable individuals, can help us combat the pandemic together.
“Communities of color often face health equity issues, like access to care and social determinants of health,” added Sandy Cayo, RN, NJHA’s vice president of clinical performance and transformation. “While more data and analysis is needed, the coronavirus outbreak hints at some of those systemic challenges that make certain communities more vulnerable.”