June 9, 2020: EPI Director J. Glenn Morris, M.D., issues a statement about racial public health disparities and how his research organization supports eliminating racism and health inequities.
Researchers at UF’s Emerging Pathogens Institute work daily to better understand new infectious diseases so that we can contribute to just and equitable health solutions. Through our work, we are keenly aware that some infectious diseases adversely affect people of color and ethnic minorities to a greater degree than others. For example, where data are available, COVID-19 is killing Black Americans at twice the rate as whites — a phenomenon we find unacceptable.
Many of our projects are committed to enhancing public health outcomes for people of color and the underprivileged — whether in Haiti or other parts of the Caribbean, the Congo, Ecuador, Bangladesh, or here at home in Florida. We are aware that income disparities lead people with less to struggle comparatively more with many different infectious diseases. This is true both in terms of their exposure rates and access to health care. We see this in our work abroad on malaria, dengue and cholera. We also see it here at home in our work on tuberculosis, HIV/AIDs and now COVID-19.
Our members have worked in dozens of countries across the globe. Analyzing epidemics is part of what we do. Whether it’s an outbreak of cholera in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, or a vaccine-preventable disease such as measles in Venezuela — we have repeatedly observed the link between deep civil unrest and the spread of infectious diseases. We know too well that these factors can amplify each other.
When COVID-19 arrived in the U.S., our faculty immediately asked how they could help. We ask the same of ourselves now in the face of overwhelming social unrest as our country grapples with issues surrounding equity and justice for Black Americans
We support eliminating racism and health inequities. We are also committed to supporting peaceful and inclusive solutions to heal health disparities driven by racial and socioeconomic inequity.
J. Glenn Morris, M.D., M.P.H. & T.M.
Director, UF Emerging Pathogens Institute
Professor of Medicine, UF College of Medicine