The deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and so many others comes during a time in which the global pandemic was already magnifying with a harsh lens implicit bias in health care. COVID-19 is disproportionately impacting, infecting and killing Black, Native and Hispanic Americans. Disparities in health care are something we know about all too well as an organization and we are actively working to change this. The disproportionate harm from the criminal justice and health care systems on minority populations are both rooted in the same thing: deep, systemic racism. Our systems have historically failed Black Americans and other marginalized groups.
AAFA is an organization that has always been dedicated toward striving for justice with our work in fighting to reduce disparities in care for underserved groups. We’re working hard to keep these issues at the forefront until we eradicate these differences.
AAFA's Plan to Address Racism in Health Care
This is an important time to update everyone on the work we’ve been doing and the specific actions we’ve been taking to improve the health outcomes of populations at high risk. In the coming weeks, AAFA is set to release a new report on asthma disparities in the United States. This comprehensive examination is a follow-up to our 2005 report on Ethnic Disparities in the Burden and Treatment of Asthma (PDF). That report found Black and Puerto Rican Americans have the highest rates of asthma. They were also three times more likely to die from asthma than their white counterparts. Black women have the highest fatality rate for asthma. In our upcoming report, we will be releasing a roadmap to address structural and systemic failures that lead to asthma health disparities.
The release of an updated report on asthma disparities is one part of AAFA’s multi-year, strategic focus to dramatically reduce the burden on underserved and marginalized groups. The plan also works to:
- Increase more diverse representation in AAFA’s patient support communities
- Advocate for policy changes to reduce high drug costs and other access-restricting barriers
- Support more diverse representation in clinical trials and other research studies
- Create tailored programs to support black women with asthma
- Introduce more asthma & allergy friendly® products into public housing, schools, Medicare and Medicaid services, and other settings
- Increase the number of resources and services we offer in additional languages, with a focus on Spanish
- Continue to fight for cleaner air in communities impacted by asthma and allergies the most
With these and other actions, our goal is to dramatically reduce the burden of asthma and allergies for underserved groups within five years.
Safety Precautions for People With Asthma in Large Crowds or Demonstrations During COVID-19 Pandemic
It’s important to remain vigilant about protection against COVID-19 which has been especially devastating to many of the same communities traumatized by racial events.
Stay-at-home orders and non-essential business restrictions are being lifted across the nation. And as tens of thousands join demonstrations, rallies and protests, there are concerns new coronavirus infections could spike. People who have the virus can have no symptoms at all and spread the disease without knowing. People with asthma may also have greater risk of complications if they develop COVID-19. There is little evidence of the new coronavirus spreading in outdoor environments. But there is evidence that the virus spreads when people are close together, and it can spread through speaking, singing and yelling.
For these reasons, AAFA recommends you take these steps to protect yourself and others:
- Wear a mask or facial covering. It needs to cover your mouth and nose.
- Wash your hands frequently. If you don’t have access to soap and water, use hand sanitizer that has at least 60% rubbing alcohol.
- Try to keep at least 6 feet away from other people outside your household. If you are in a crowd, try to move to the back or edge of the crowd so you can maintain proper distance.
- Don’t leave home without your quick-relief inhaler (and spacer).
- Keep in mind that crowds in confined indoor spaces (including restaurants, bars, vehicles, rooms and jail spaces) can put you at a higher risk of contracting the new coronavirus.
- If you have recently attended a protest or been in a large crowd and feel any of the suspected COVID-19 symptoms, get tested. Some cities and counties have temporarily closed testing sites during protests. Other cities have expanded free testing options. Call your doctor or public health department to find out where to get tested. If you have symptoms, keep a mask on to prevent spreading the virus.
We urge officials on local and national levels to identify and evaluate the large-scale use of tear gas, pepper spray and flash bangs as public health concerns mount about respiratory health impacts, especially during a global pandemic. We’ve heard accounts of people having asthma attacks while trying to protest, while at home, or simply moving about their communities. In one tragic case shared with AAFA, this may have resulted in the death of a recent Ohio State University grad who had asthma. Spraying chemicals on demonstrators also causes people to take their masks off and rub their eyes, nose and mouth – putting everyone at greater risk for contracting coronavirus. On June 5th, the city of Seattle, Washington placed a 30-day ban on use of tear gas over concerns its use along with other respiratory irritants could increase spread of the new coronavirus. (However flash-bang grenades and pepper spray are still being used.) Other cities including Denver and Philadelphia are also taking action to stop use of tear gas.
People with asthma are still considered high-risk for complications from COVID-19. If you or someone in your household has asthma, it is important to continue to protect yourself. Some people with asthma have chosen to protect their health by staying home and finding other ways to express their support for a more just society.
Keep checking our blog for the latest information and news. Our community is here for you: www.aafa.org/join.