The Washtenaw County Health Department (WCHD) announced Thursday the formation of a new Health Equity Council to address the health disparities related to the COVID-19 pandemic across the county. The council will include members from across the community who will work with WCHD staff and community organizations, including Mexiquenses en Michigan, Second Baptist Church, Educate Youth Ypsi and Community Family Life Center.
In a Thursday press release, Washtenaw County health officer Jimena Loveluck emphasized the importance of cooperation between the community and the health department when addressing health disparities.
“There is still work to be done to promote equity and prevent further harm, as COVID-19 and other health issues continue to disproportionately impact racial and ethnic minorities in our county,” Loveluck wrote. “We encourage those who are passionate about improving health for all in Washtenaw to apply to join the Health Equity Council.”
According to the press release, the council will initially focus on preventing further spread of COVID-19 in the 48197 and 48198 zip codes which have been the hardest hit parts of Ann Arbor during the pandemic. In the 48197 zip code, 38.4% of the population identify with minority racial demographics, and 44.1% identify as racial minorities in 48198.
Since the start of the pandemic, there have been 86,888 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Washtenaw County, representing about 24% of the total permanent population. Since University of Michigan students, and those who attend other local colleges during the academic year, are not always counted as permanent residents, the 24% may be disproportionately high.
In recent weeks, COVID-19 cases have been trending downward, with the county reporting 111.3 cases per 100,000 people this week. At this time last year, cases were 116.3 per 100,000.
Part of the council’s mission is to improve access to healthcare in these areas, the release explained. In the 2022 Ann Arbor community survey, 22% of residents ranked the availability of affordable quality healthcare as fair and 7% ranked it as poor.
The Health Equity Council is being created as a part of the $500,000 grant given to WCHD by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Office of Equity and Minority Health in October 2020.
The Council will select three members from the community to meet once or twice a month. Prospective members can apply here until Oct. 30.
Daily Staff Reporter Matthew Shanbom can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.