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Health disparities in African American community resurface amid COVID-19

Local organizers and research companies look for solutions to the health disparities in the African American community

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — African Americans are dying from the virus at an alarming rate.

Of the confirmed death cases of COVID-19 in the state of Alabama, fifty-two percent are the Black demographic according to the Alabama Department of Public Health.  

African Americans have been more prone to the virus due to underlying health conditions such as asthma, diabetes and hypertension.

"In communities where the minority is the majority - policies and decisions are not necessarily always made to benefit those particular communities," says United Women of Color Founder, Executive Director Angela Curry.

Curry says this issue is systemic.Tiffany Jordan and Dr. Del Smith (Phd) agree and say those underlying health conditions haven't been treated in this community.

Both are co-founders of a Huntsville genetic research company 'Acclinate Genetics'. It's a company at HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology.

"So you've had a pandemic, a silent pandemic that was there.Then all of a sudden there's this public pandemic with COVID-19 and when you combine those two together, within the African American community, it's really devastating," says Smith.

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Smith and Jordan say a solution is to provide diverse data, not a one size fits all.

"The only conversation we need to be having right now are what are these underlying health conditions and how can we improve and make sure that has equal access to drugs that work in their bodies and of course now with COVID-19 - to proper testing," says Jordan.

They've partnered with another local research company, RippleWorx.

"Acclinate - our strength is in our ability to educate and engage minority populations, and RippleWorx their strength lies on their ability to collect and analyze data," says Smith.

"We're all changing, and this industry is advancing, but we have to catch up, and the time is now. There's no better opportunity," added Jordan.

The Alabama Department of Public Health has acknowledged this crisis and say they will continue to address this health disparity and beyond. 

Dr. Karen Landers provided this statement as follows:

"The Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) COVID 19 data indicates that African Americans are disproportionately affected by this disease. African Americans, in parts of Alabama, have less access to medical care. In addition, African Americans have an increase in comorbid conditions, including heart disease, diabetes, lung disease, and kidney disease, which can affect outcome for COVID 19. ADPH is increasing access to free testing for COVID 19 throughout the state as well as continuing to message to African Americans concerning following the stay at home order and social distancing. ADPH continues to advocate for addressing health disparity among African Americans in Alabama during this health crisis and beyond."