COVID-19 Health Equity Brief for Genesee County and Flint

Subscribe to the Flint Center for Health Equity Solutions COVID-19 Health Equity Brief. Get the facts emailed directly to you weekly.

Ask the Expert: Medical Distrust in Black Communities

Historical racism and modern day health care disparities have ingrained in Black communities distrust of a medical system now charged with encouraging people to take the COVID-19 vaccine. Dr. Debra Furr-Holden, associate dean for public health integration and C.S. Mott Endowed Professor of Public Health in the College of Human Medicine, answers questions for MSUToday.

Hospital Association: 'We Simply Don’t Have Enough Vaccines in Michigan to Get to Everybody Yet'

With the arrival of the COVID-19 vaccine last month, questions still abound about the pandemic, Michigan’s distribution plan for the vaccine and what comes next. Dr. Debra Furr-Holden talks about how we overcome hesitancy in the community with three solutions.

Michigan's Black Disparities in COVID-19 Closed, Says Health Expert

Data shows COVID-19 is no longer disproportionately affecting Black people in Flint or elsewhere across the state, according to Dr. Debra Furr-Holden. Although cases county and statewide are trending downward - it’s not the time to let your guard down and back off of #COVID19 protocols. “My request is people stay the course. We are not out of the woods, but if we continue the way we have gone.. we will be," said Furr-Holden.

Why Michigan Classrooms are Reopening Even Though the Pandemic is Far From Over

Why are Michigan classrooms reopening even though the pandemic is far from over? Dr. Debra Furr-Holden weighs in from a public health perspective. “Anything that we do that increases human-to-human contact is going to increase the spread of this virus. That’s just public health 101. I think what we’re realizing is the tremendous toll that being out of the classroom is taking on kids learning, and on many other vital needs that get fulfilled when they go to school."

The Flint Water Crisis, Race and Vaccines

In Times of Crisis, Turn to People you Trust. The Special Report with Areva Martin takes a deeper look at race, culture, politics and the economy, and how they impact our lives. Dr. Debra Furr-Holden discusses how the Flint water crisis is affecting COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy.

The Flint Water Crisis and COVID-19 Health Disparities Share Roots in Racism and Classism

Dr. Debra Furr-Holden discusses what she calls “one of the biggest acts of environmental racism in my lifetime” and why similar disparities are now being seen during the coronavirus pandemic with NBCLX.

Dr. Mona Got the COVID-19 Vaccine and Encourages Everyone to Follow

"This is a chance for all of us to be heroes. . .to step up to get that tiny little shot in the arm to protect not only ourselves, our family, our loved ones, and our greater community," shared Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha with ABC 12 News.

Black Americans are Getting Vaccinated at Lower Rates than White Americans, Study Finds

The pandemic shone a harsh light on the racial and socioeconomic disparities that leave Black Americans more susceptible to contracting the coronavirus. The disproportionate occupational exposure faced by Black Americans stemmed from wealth inequalities that then gave rise to health inequalities, explains epidemiologist Dr. Debra Furr-Holden, “COVID was the first time that a lot of people realize what health disparities were and that they’re real. If you’re poor, the stay-at-home order falls on deaf ears. How can you stay at home if you can’t feed your family?” Read the full story on MSN News.

Scars from Flint's Water Crisis Shake City's Faith in COVID Vaccine

"As a public health professional, I see the important need for prevention. I see the important need for a safe and credible vaccine to be distributed and administered equitably in our community," shared Dr. Debra Furr-Holden. But at the same time, "relationships are built on trust, and trust takes time," she shared with NBC News.

Christmas, New Year’s Travel Sets New Pandemic High

Dr. Debra Furr-Holden talks with the Wall Street Journal about how post-holiday reality will be an increase in COVID-19 cases and deaths. “Covid fatigue is real, and people are craving interaction, which is leading them to take calculated risks. Public-health guidance to remain isolated in your home has become tone- deaf because it doesn’t honor the lived experience of missing family and friends, and major life events like funerals," shared Furr-Holden.

Flint Registry Set to Continue through 2021 with $4.5 Million

The $1.4 trillion federal COVID-19 spending bill includes funding to continue the Flint Registry for another year. The registry has more than 10,500 families signed up to receive advice and referrals for services that combat the effects of lead poisoning suffered during the Flint water crisis. The program has completed 13,500 referrals for health care, nutrition, early education, lead elimination programs and more since it was created in 2016.

What’s Not Being Said About Why African Americans Need to Take the COVID-19 Vaccine

The big lie is one of omission. Yes, it is true that African Americans will benefit from the COVID vaccine, but the full truth is that the country needs African Americans and other population subgroups with lower reported COVID-19 vaccine acceptability rates to take the vaccine. Without increased vaccine acceptability, we stand little to no chance of communitywide protection. Dr. Debra Furr-Holden shares how she sees a significant opportunity to improve COVID vaccine acceptance in the African American community in this piece written for The Conversation.

Looking Back on COVID-19: Where We’ve Been and Some Hope Heading in 2021

2020 has been the deadliest year in American history with more than three million deaths. “It’s unfortunate because we’re in the era of better medicine, better innovation, and healthcare, yet we’re seeing this record-number of annual deaths,” Dr. Debra Furr-Holden said. The good news to round out 2020 is the emergency authorization of two new vaccines. “It’s a good thing that we have a vaccine available, and when you couple that with people wearing masks, practicing social distancing, and people having the resources that they need to stay safe, we start to build layers of protection that are going to be critical to get this pandemic under control,” she said.

If I Have Allergies, Should I Get the Coronavirus Vaccine? An Expert Answers this and Other Questions

Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, a public health pediatrician whose research exposed the Flint, Michigan, water crisis, answers questions about the vaccine and allergies, and when kids might be able to get the vaccine.

Young People Have Less Covid-19 Risk, but in College Towns, Deaths Rose Fast

Dr. Debra Furr-Holden talks with the New York Times about the unintended negative consequence between universities and the wider community during the COVID-19 pandemic.

A Candid COVID Conversation with Black Men

At the Forefront is a podcast that highlights the work and experiences of people at the forefront of the health equity revolution, including researchers, practitioners, community members, activists, youth leaders, and political leaders. In this episode, Isaiah Oliver, CEO, of the Community Foundation of Greater Flint has a conversation with Black Men about COVID.

Michigan task force working to ensure minority groups get vaccinated against COVID-19

Some leaders in Michigan are working to ensure minority groups in the state opt in to the COVID-19 vaccine. "I think the mistrust in the African American and other communities of color and racial and ethnic minorities is valid," said Dr. Debra Furr-Holden.

Whitmer Announces Bipartisan Commission to Educate Michiganders on COVID-19 Vaccine

Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha to serve on the Protect Michigan Commission within the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). The focus of the commission is to help raise awareness of the safety and effectiveness of an approved COVID-19 vaccine, as well as educate people.

Task Force Helped Lower Percentage of African Americans Contracting COVID-19

State leaders are crediting the Michigan COVID-19 Task Force on Racial Disparities with helping lower the percentage of African Americans who contracted the virus. Dr. Debra Furr-Holden, an epidemiologist and member of the coronavirus task force, said the average cases and deaths for African Americans dropped tremendously in September and October compared to March and April.

COVID Vaccine: Black Leaders Start Task Force to Ensure and Improve Delivery to Neighborhoods in Need

Dr. Debra Furr-Holden is among Black leaders starting task force to deliver a safe and readily available coronavirus vaccine to Black communities. Understanding the apprehension around the vaccine within the community, these leaders are also ready to address any concerns people might have over safety and efficacy.

Epidemiologist: 'People are Getting COVID Fatigue'

As Thanksgiving approaches, and amidst an upward trend in COVID-19 cases, epidemiologist Dr. Debra Furr-Holden is advising people to take appropriate action to protect themselves from the virus. "People are getting COVID fatigue . . . it was more important than ever that people are wearing their PPE, that people are washing their hands, and using hand sanitizer when they’re out.”

The Double Pandemic: How COVID-19 is Bringing to Light Health Inequities that Have Long Been a Problem in America

Nationwide, Black people have been dying from COVID19 at around 2.1 times the rate of white people. The novel coronavirus has exposed deeply rooted disparities across the healthcare system which disproportionately impact communities of color. The way to begin to pave the way for lasting change? Inclusive innovation, community outreach and policy work—and a passion for fighting for an equitable future. In this Johnson & Johnson article and video, Dr. Debra Furr-Holden shares her personal difficulty to obtain a COVID-19 test when she began to have symptoms of COVID-19.

Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha Says Lessons Learned in Flint Can Help in Fight Against COVID-19

Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, who has firsthand experience with public health emergencies, joined Detroit Today to share her thoughts on the current state of the pandemic. “We have to proactively invest in public health infrastructure,” says Hanna-Attisha. She adds that while the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated economic and racial inequalities, the medical community is finally taking these disparities seriously.”

Flint Eliminates COVID-19 Disparity among African Americans

There is still much work to do to slow the spread (of COVID-19) and eventually roll out a vaccine, but Dr. Debra Furr-Holden believes this one crucial step in eliminating the disparity in Flint means there is hope for what more can be done. African Americans are 60-percent of the population in Flint, in March they accounted for more than 85-percent of positive COVID-19 cases and 91-percent of the COVID-19 deaths. That has turned around drastically. By the end of September, the data showed that African Americans make up 38-percent of cases and 50-percent of deaths, which is a drastic drop from the spring. Those numbers are now an under-representation of the African American population in Flint.

Addressing COVID-19 Racial Disparities in Flint with $1.2M NIH Grant

Dr. Todd Lucas, a team of Michigan State University researchers, and their partners are leading a $1.2M NIH study with a pair of formidable goals: communicating effectively about the value of COVID-19 antibody testing and better understanding why COVID-19 causes a disproportionate number of African Americans to suffer severe cases and deaths. The project is part of the NIH Serological Sciences Network for COVID-19 (SeroNet) initiative.

FREE online self-paced public health course, Promoting Public Health in Michigan in the Face of COVID-19

Brought to you by Michigan State University Public Health Experts and Community Leaders. This course will enhance the public’s understanding of public health, why it is important in the fight against COVID-19 and beyond, and practices for promoting the health of diverse individuals and communities. You will learn a brief history of public health, including the impact of vaccines; how psychological, social, and environmental factors influence health; about COVID-19 testing and treatment in Michigan; how to promote critical elements of a healthy society; how communities can support public health. Open to all.

Faculty Voice: Limiting the Collateral Damage of COVID-19

Dr. Debra Furr-Holden shares her perspective on how COVID-19 has raised the visibility of the importance of public health and shined a glaring light on the racial health disparities since it has disproportionately impacted African Americans. Preliminary data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, suggests men may be experiencing disproportionate COVID-19 impacts as well. There are likely a number of other disparate populations, and a lack of good data will only continue to fuel this debate.

There's a Right Way to Handle the Coronavirus Pandemic

Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha shares her perspective as a guest writer on the many lessons from this pandemic. One lesson is that when there is a public health emergency, we need to listen to experts. Listening to science saves lives. “I know what happens when science and facts are ignored. In Flint, a denial of common sense science and a dismissal of scientists created and prolonged our public health crisis. The cost has been enormous. In the case of COVID-19, experts in medicine and public health have told us how to mitigate the spread of this insidious and deadly virus. Wear a mask. Wash your hands regularly. Maintain social distancing. And — if you’re exposed — get tested and self-isolate, so that you’re preventing the spread to others.”

State Task Force Leads the Way on Reducing Michigan's COVID-19 Racial Disparities

This article is part of State of Health, a series about how Michigan communities are rising to address health challenges. State task force leads the way on reducing Michigan's COVID-19 racial disparities. "It's pretty clear that the number of things we've been doing as a task force are making a difference in the outcomes," said Renee Canady.

15 Doctors Send Message to Michiganders on Wearing Masks, Following Science

A coalition of Michigan public health experts penned an oped that was published on October 6, 2020. “Controlling a pandemic should not be about politics or partisan ideology; we cannot throw our hands up in defeat. Controlling a pandemic should not pit public health interventions against the economy. We know the policy tools that are needed to control the pandemic and how to make it successfully to the other side of this historic crisis. The most important tool is good governance that is responsive, vigilant and science-driven. We need policymaking that is rooted in both science and the value of protecting our public's health.”

How Michigan Moved the Needle on Racial Disparities in COVID

Dr. Debra Furr-Holden writes an oped on racial disparities in COVID-19. “Michigan was one of the first states to publicly report on racial disparities in COVID-19 cases and deaths. While just over 14 percent of the state’s population, African Americans represented 32 percent of COVID-19 cases and 41 percent of the reported COVID deaths, less than three months into the first identified cases in the U.S. These statistics were more than a trivial revelation that COVID-19 would not be an exception to the enduring health disparities experienced by African Americans and other socially vulnerable populations in Michigan and across the nation.”

“I Have to be Around People that are Doing What I'm Doing”: The Importance of Expanding the Peer Recovery Coach Role in Treatment of Opioid Use Disorder in the Face of COVID-19 Health Disparities

The COVID-19 pandemic and ongoing opioid epidemic are causing notable morbidity and mortality among low-income and minority populations. Peer recovery coaches (PRCs), people with lived experience of substance use and recovery, are uniquely positioned to support underserved, minority individuals who face the greatest barriers to care. This commentary combines research and clinical perspectives to describe the potential role of PRCs in reaching and supporting particularly vulnerable populations in the setting of substantial changes in the opioid use disorder (OUD) recovery landscape during COVID-19. Dr. Julia Felton and colleagues discuss the role of peer recovery coaches in an article published in the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment.

Rainbow PUSH Convenes Meeting with NCAA Leadership

Reverend Jesse L. Jackson, Sr., founder and president of Rainbow PUSH Coalition, in conjunction with the organization's healthcare committee, organized a meeting with NCAA leadership to discuss college student-athlete safety during the COVID-19 pandemic. Dr. Debra Furr-Holden serves as co-chair of the Rainbow PUSH health committee.

Epidemiologist Says Time isn’t Right for Travel’s Restart

“I know people want to travel. I want to travel,” stated Dr. Debra Furr-Holden during an interview with Travel Weekly. “It’s just not wise right now. We don’t have enough information, and we don’t have the provisions in place to be able to do that safely.” Furr-Holden said increased testing is burdening the system nationwide, with essential and frontline workers getting top priority. That explains why many travelers can’t get a test result in the 72 hours before travel, which some destinations requiring.

Social and Psychological Consequences of the Covid-19 Pandemic in African-American Communities: Lessons From Michigan

Drs. Rodlescia S. Sneed, Kent Key, Sarah Bailey, and Vicki Johnson-Lawrence publish a journal article in the July issue of Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy. They discuss the mental health consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic are particularly relevant in African-American communities because African-Americans have been disproportionately impacted by the disease, yet they are traditionally less engaged in mental health treatment compared with other racial groups.

All Your Questions About COVID Testing, Answered By Doctors

"Testing is critical to slowing the spread of coronavirus and early identification of cases, so appropriate precautions can be taken," Dr. Debra Furr-Holden, C.S. Mott Endowed Professor of Public Health at Michigan State University College of Human Medicine tells Bustle. "Testing should be done regularly, and the frequency of testing should increase as a person’s exposure to the outside world increases."

COVID-19 Response: Alumni and Students

Like the far-reaching impact of the novel coronavirus outbreak, Spartans in Public Health have addressed the pandemic in unprecedented ways. Alumni and students rapidly applied their skills and their talents to actively address the evolving needs of the pandemic. These Spartans have helped address the epidemiology of disease transmission, worked to ensure patients are able to get their medicine safely, conducted risk assessments, developed containment strategies, provided psychiatric and mental health consultations to COVID-19 positive patients, volunteered to work the COVID-19 provider hotlines, performed autopsies, and more. Where there is a need, there is a Spartan in Public Health.

Spartans Join Governor’s Task Force to Address Racial Disparities in Healthcare

Dr. Debra Furr-Holden and College of Nursing Dean Randy Rasch talks with WKAR's Russ White. In April, both Furr-Holden and Rasch were appointed to the Michigan Coronavirus Task Force on Racial Disparities. The task force is acting in an advisory capacity to the governor and studies the causes of racial disparities in the impact of COVID-19 and recommends actions to immediately address such disparities and the historical and systemic inequities that underlie them.

The Flint Women’s Study Community Action Network Presents Current Events Support Group: Racism and COVID-19

Join this weekly current event support group for adults and youth in Genesee County via zoom every Thursday from 11:30 AM – 12:30 PM. Lately, discussions have been revolving around COVID-19, racism, and police violence. Each supportive discussion group is led by Flint psychologists and pastors. All are welcome.

Ask the Expert: COVID-19 Testing

Dr. Debra Furr-Holden, associate dean for public health integration and C.S. Mott Endowed Professor of Public Health in the College of Human Medicine, answers questions about the different COVID-19 tests.

COVID-19 National Emergency Response Webinar Series

COVID-19 shelter in place isolation can negatively affect people in substance use recovery. Dr. Julia Felton, a clinical psychologist in the MSU Division of Public Health, and a panelist of experts will lead a discussion on how peer recovery coaches and navigators can effectively and safely help patients sustain their recovery, as well as care for themselves, during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Detroit’s Winning Spirit Helps it Fight Back Against COVID-19

“Health disparities are the status quo in America,” said public health advocate Dr. Debra Furr-Holden, associate dean for Public Health Integration at Michigan State University’s College of Human Medicine. “African-American people have had disparate health since slave ships brought us to America.”

COVID-19 in the Community and How it Affects You!

Cultural conversations: Dr. Debra Furr-Holden participates in a live panel discussion on health inequities that have deepened during the COVID-19 pandemic. "Stay home. Stay put. Stay safe. If we can get people to do that, we will shorten the span."

Ask the Expert: What is Contact Tracing?

Due to COVID-19, “contact tracing” has been added to our vocabulary. Not everyone understands it is essential to stopping the spread of the novel coronavirus. Dr. Mieka Smart, assistant professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics and the Division of Public Health in the College of Human Medicine, answers questions about contact tracing. She received her public health training at Johns Hopkins University and is a member of the COVID-19 Contact Tracing Workgroup for Flint/Genesee County.

As Reopening Begins in Uncertain Coronavirus Times, You Need Emotional Protective Equipment, Too

As millions across the U.S. prepare to return to work – and maybe, a level of normalcy – the phrase, “We’re all in this together,” heard constantly in the media, turns out to be both true and untrue. Yes, the pandemic is a global experience. But it’s also very much an individual enterprise. Drs. Claudia Finkelstein, and public health researchers Jennifer E. Johnson and Julia Felton write about the need to focus on our "emotional protective equipment" as reopening begins in uncertain coronavirus times.

Protecting Your Mental Health During Covid-19

Dr. Jennifer E. Johnson, C.S. Mott Endowed Professor of Public Health, Michigan State University College of Human Medicine, gives some practical tips on how to manage stress, reduce anxiety, and stay mentally well during this unprecedented period of social distancing.

Op Ed: To Avoid Future Public Health Crises, We Must Address The Collateral Damage Of COVID-19

“In our response to COVID-19, we risk other emerging crises as well as excess illness and death due to non-COVID related disease if we solely focus on the COVID pandemic,” wrote Dr. Debra Furr-Holden, C.S. Mott Endowed Professor of Public Health, Associate Dean for Public Health Integration at Michigan State University College of Human Medicine.

Demographic Data for COVID-19 Shows Racial Disparities Higher in Michigan, but More Data Needed

Dr. Debra Furr-Holden, a member of Michigan’s Coronavirus Task Force on Racial Disparities, discusses health care inequalities as it relates to COVID-19.

Coronavirus Pandemic Threatens Flint with 2nd Major Health Crisis

Washing your hands with soap and water is the most important thing you can do to kill the virus. But many places can't do that. Hear from Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha on how the Flint Registry public health infrastructure is helping.

Communities of Color Have Been Devastated by the Crisis

Dr. Debra Furr-Holden sees opportunity in the disparities COVID-19 exposed to the wider public. She speaks to Newsday on the opportunity for innovation and transformation.

Op ed: I’m Sick of Asking Children to Be Resilient

"Rather than hoping a child is tough enough to endure the insurmountable, we must build resilient places where all children can thrive" pens Dr. Mona Hanna-Atisha in The New York Times op-ed.

Dr. Mona on her Battle with COVID-19, and a Call to Action

Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha recently donated plasma after recovering from COVID-19. The antibodies in plasma from a COVID-19 survivor can be used to attack the virus in the bloodstreams of other people with the virus. She shares her experience.

Are Clinicians Contributing to African American COVID-19 Deaths?

African Americans are overrepresented among reported coronavirus cases and deaths. A multitude of factors may explain the disparity in COVID-19 outcomes, including higher rates of comorbidities and implicit bias. To address this, we must apply a health equity lens and disaggregate the data.

Local Task Force Formed for Racial Equity in COVID-19 Response

Greater Flint Coronavirus Taskforce of Racial Disparities is supporting black & brown communities through disproportionate consequences of COVID-19. Dr. Debra Furr-Holden and Dr. Kent Key are serving on the local task force.

Michigan Coronavirus Task Force on Racial Disparities Dedicates Work to Detroit Girl, 5, Who Died

Dr. Debra Furr-Holden, associate dean for Public Health Integration and the director of the Flint Center for Health Equity Solutions, and Dr. Renée Branch Canady, Master of Public Health assistant professor, appointed to the Michigan Coronavirus Task Force on Racial Disparities. The task force will be working to address the way COVID-19 has disproportionately impacted communities of color throughout Michigan.

Rainbow PUSH Coalition, National Medical Association, and National Bar Association Joint Statement on the Response to the Coronavirus/COVID-19 Pandemic: A Public Health Manifesto

Dr. Debra Furr-Holden is working with the Rainbow PUSH Coalition and Reverend Jesse Jackson, Sr. on national information dissemination and policy strategies to protect vulnerable populations. She co-authored the Rainbow PUSH Coalition and National Medical Association Public Health Manifesto in April 2020.

A Message for Easter Weekend #WorshipInPlace

Dr. Debra Furr-Holden lead efforts to launch a social media campaign to encourage families to #WorshipInPlace Easter Weekend. Coordination of this effort occurred with a national network of over 1,200 Pastors and likely prevented Easter Sunday ‘super spread’ of Coronavirus.

Knowledge and Behaviors Toward COVID-19 Among US Residents During the Early Days of the Pandemic: Cross-Sectional Online Questionnaire

The early days of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic in the United States brought uncertainty in the knowledge about COVID-19 and what to do about it. It is necessary to understand public knowledge and behaviors if we are to effectively address the pandemic. Dr. John Clements, Master of Public Health assistant professor, article published in JMIR publications.

Flint Community Webinars on COVID-19

To help sustain the health of the Flint community, Dr. Debra Furr-Holden helped launch the Healthy Flint Research Coordinating Center (HFRCC) Flint Community Webinars to address emerging concerns about COVID-19. The goal of the webinar series is to give community members a chance to raise questions and to provide information on (1) how to prevent and reduce the spread of the coronavirus/COVID-19, (2) current trends in the spread of the virus, and (3) plans for reopening Flint and monitoring contact tracing. These webinars include multiple City and non-governmental agencies and service providers to ensure first-hand access and provide the best information and resources to residents.