African Americans comprise approximately 27% of Milwaukee County’s population and 40% of the City of Milwaukee population. However, African Americans comprise 48% of Milwaukee County deaths and 65% of the City of Milwaukee deaths from COVID-19.
In the midst of this crisis, the NAACP Wisconsin State Conference has received complaints that African Americans in the City of Milwaukee believe that they may not be receiving equal healthcare in regarding COVID-19 and other issues. It is important that during this pandemic, African Americans are not marginalized any more than what they must endure on a regular basis. While many times, this kind of behavior from health care providers and the general public are not done consciously, the impact is no less traumatizing.
Many times, poor communities and people of color are implicitly seen as products of their own behavior without considering how systems of services creates these behaviors because of the ways they are treated and/or viewed.
According to Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act, the law prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age or disability in health programs and activities that receive federal financial assistance from the federal government or are administered by an executive agency or any entity established under Title 1 of the ACA.
Section 1557 makes it unlawful for any health care provider, such as a hospital or doctor, that receives funding from the federal government to refuse to treat an individual or to otherwise discriminate against the individual based on the individual’s race, color, national origin, sex, age or disability. To ensure that all patients are treated equally and without the prejudice and bias in southeastern Wisconsin, the NAACP issues the following recommendations:
1. The state should provide City of Milwaukee COVID-19 data and not just Milwaukee County and state data. The current city data is not consistent with the other data provided from the state. Milwaukee is the largest and most diverse city in the state. Healthcare systems, including public health are known to not provide the same level of care to communities of color as they do for the general population. The numbers for the state and county need to be consistent. For the City of Milwaukee, the data is not consistent with the available county or state data and therefore, priorities and recommendations for African Americans and other communities of color are not based on reliable information. It also means that evaluation of service plans, results and recommendations for improvement cannot be acceptable.
2. Testing and contact tracing are critical to determining the extent of the disease. This has been one of areas that has been sorely ignored. NAACP has heard that health care providers do not want to come into the affected community. Train and pay people from the community who are comfortable and who the targeted population will be more comfortable interacting with.
3. Any strategies that are developed to address the health needs, including COVID should include members of the affected communities that has the trust and respect of said community.
4. COVID-19 funding must be used to sustain and improve and improve the health of the targeted populations. Funding must include resources to be provided for meeting the day to day needs, such as housing, food clothing, etc.
5. Provide Meaningful Access to Individuals with Limited English Proficiency in its Health Programs and Activities related to COVID-19 treatment and other identified needs to the extent possible.
About the NAACP:
Founded in 1909, the NAACP is the nation’s oldest and largest nonpartisan civil rights organization. The mission of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) is to secure the political, educational, social, and economic equality of rights to eliminate race-based discrimination and ensure the health and well-being of all persons. Its members throughout the United States and the world are the premier advocates for civil rights in their communities. You can read more about the NAACP’s work, our five “Game Changer” issue areas, and our “Done Dying” initiative at http://naacp.org.