Equity in the COVID-19 Crisis: Part Two of Two

This post features an excerpt of an article originally published by KConnect in the second of a two-part blog series, Equity in the COVID-19 Crisis. Focusing on how structural inequity shows up in healthcare, education, and jobs and income, the series features our own Dr. Juan Olivarez, as well as Micah Foster PA-C, executive director of the Grand Rapids African Health Institute, Dr. Brandy Lovelady Mitchell, inaugural director of diversity, equity & inclusion at Kent Intermediate School District, and Paul Doyle, founder and CEO of Inclusive Performance Strategies.

Read the complete part one here, and part two here.

To gain a deeper understanding of the COVID-19 healthcare and other impacts, we convened a panel of experts in a variety of roles in our community, including Dr. Juan Olivarez, the Distinguished Scholar in Residence for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at the Johnson Center for Philanthropy.

With these interviews, KConnect is examining how equity, or the lack of equity, is shaping our collective understandings and experiences. It examines how we might systemically make changes that can have a positive impact on children and families while addressing the unique needs of marginalized communities.

This blog focuses on how inequities are negatively impacting children and families in our community, how we can change the system to better serve our community, and actionable steps to achieve equitable outcomes during this time of crisis.

How are these inequities negatively impacting children and families in our community? 

Dr. Olivarez: Our kids are going to feel this as a trauma; there will be PTSD. That’s my biggest concern; the stress caused by fear, lack of structure, tension at home, etc. and what that stress is causing will be very devastating to children.

Looking forward, what should we think about now in order to radically change the system and create sustainable change through an inclusive growth lens?

Dr. Olivarez: We can illuminate this and maybe our conversations will shift to a much higher level in what it means to have an inclusive growth community — it’s all about access and opportunity. I think moving forward, challenging our policies, regulations, neighborhood access to health, food, jobs, etc., can and should take a different light. It can’t just be about a pandemic, it really should be about anything that happens in our society that is a crisis, and there will be more.

We have a window here; it’s about economics and people not having any safety net to fall back on to transition into a new job or to go to school. We have to illuminate what it means to have access and opportunity for people and why it matters to communities and society as a whole.

In each of the areas that we’ve talked about — healthcare, education, and jobs/income — what do you think are two or three actionable priorities that we should begin working on now to enhance inclusive growth across Kent County?

Dr. Olivarez: I think we can immediately start making sure that we address the digital divide — we need laptops in every child’s hand and wifi for the city.

Jobs we can move on quickly with re-training — this is a great motivator if people do lose their jobs, and there will be many who do, we need to be right there with them. Give intermediaries the resources they need to help with the training and retraining of citizens in their neighborhoods to be ready for the workforce.

Read the full post at KConnect.org.


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