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Message from Dr. Hope Corbin, Regional Vice President, on the COVID-19 Pandemic

As I write this on April, 23rd, 2020, the US currently has 852,253 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and has reported 43,587 deaths (New York Times, 2020). Alarmingly, the states, cities and regions tracking such data are seeing drastically higher rates of infection and deaths among Black Americans and other communities of color. The patterns of social, economic, and political oppression faced by these communities that led to preexisting health disparities are exacerbated in the face of the pandemic (Washington Post, 2020). Health promotion is urgently needed now and in the future to redress these inequities and ensure health for all people.

As I reflect on the socioecological underpinning of health promotion and the Ottawa Charter action areas, I see so clearly how in an emergency, failures in any part of the system impede progress across the board. The patchwork of policies without uniform and evidence-based federal guidance is derailing and undermining containment efforts. The supportiveness of environments is completely created state by state, workplace by workplace, school district by school district, etc. and is resulting in wildly different experiences for individuals, families and communities. There has been inspiring community action—unfortunately it has had to be directed toward addressing failures at other levels with people sewing masks and 3D printing face shields at home because appropriate testing and PPE is unavailable to protect frontline health care workers. The failure of our health care services to enact a prevention orientation in our general health care system before the crisis is resulting in high death rates due to the prevalence of NCDs in this country. Taken together—these failures are allowing the virus to rage in certain areas, making vulnerable certain workers, forcing stop-gap measure due to a lack of preparedness, and resulting in even more preventable illness and death.

The landscape in the US is grim. And while there is much to critique and much to still fear as shaky (and premature) discussions of reopening the “economy” begin—I am still astounded by the leadership shown in some cities, regions and states. My own state of Washington moved swiftly and decisively in shutting down schools, events, and most businesses successfully flattening the first wave of the local outbreak. This is quite honestly the only time I have ever witnessed a true “health in all policies” effort—truly, all other concerns were put aside in the service of protecting life. Now the question and challenge to us is: how can we continue to keep this focus front and center in the US (and other countries)? How can we use the data and experience of this pandemic to secure health and life for our most marginalized communities? As societies, we must not squander the opportunity to learn from this.


We invite you to read all COVID-19 messages from the IUHPE President and Regional Vice Presidents.