The White House on Wednesday announced the 12 members of its covid-19 Health Equity Task Force. The advisory board is charged with issuing a range of recommendations on everything from the allocation of relief funds to effective outreach and communication to inform and guide the federal government’s response to a pandemic that has unduly burdened communities of color.
Task force members represent a diversity of expertise and backgrounds, including the president of a historically Black medical school, a disability rights lawyer, an Alaska Native tribal leader, and a high school student activist.
The task force will be chaired by Marcella Nunez-Smith, an associate professor at the Yale School of Medicine. She co-chaired Biden’s covid-19 advisory board during the presidential transition.
At a Wednesday news conference, Nunez-Smith said sharp disparities have plagued the country throughout the pandemic. They include who has been able to access testing and new covid-19 treatments and which communities are seeing the most hospitalizations and deaths.
The most recent wrinkle in disparities, she said, was the lopsided percentage of White Americans getting the vaccine compared with all other Americans.
Nunez-Smith said she plans to convene “listening sessions” with affected communities.
Representatives from six federal agencies will also sit on the task force: the departments of Agriculture, Education, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, Justice and Labor.
The task force will issue recommendations to inform the Biden administration’s covid-19 response. The group’s work will end once it issues a final report to the White House’s covid-19 response coordinator documenting “the drivers of observed COVID-19 inequities, the potential for ongoing disparities faced by COVID-19 survivors, and actions to ensure that future pandemic responses do not ignore or exacerbate health inequities,” according to a statement.
The task force members are: Mayra Alvarez, president of The Children’s Partnership; James Hildreth, president of Meharry Medical College; Andrew Imparato, executive director of Disability Rights California; Victor Joseph, former chief/chairman of the Tanana Chiefs Conference; Joneigh Khaldun, Michigan’s chief medical executive; Octavio Martinez, executive director of the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health at The University of Texas at Austin; Tim Putnam, president of Margaret Mary Health; Vincent Toranzo, a student from Broward County, Fla.; Mary Turner, president of the Minnesota Nurses Association union; Homer Venters, a physician and epidemiologist; G. Robert “Bobby” Watts, chief executive officer of the National Health Care for the Homeless Council; and Haeyoung Yoon, senior policy director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance.