‘The Racism Pandemic’: Advocates Hope New Commission Will Improve Health Equity in Vermont

‘The Racism Pandemic’: Advocates Hope New Commission Will Improve Health Equity in Vermont

More from VPR: ‘A Return To Roots’: Vermont Releaf Collective Celebrates BIPOC In Farm & Food Over the last two years, the life expectancy of Black men in the United States has dropped by three years. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the racial gap in life expectancy is now wider than it’s been in nearly a quarter century.

It’s one example of how COVID-19 has illuminated and exacerbated racial disparities in the country’s health care system. Health equity experts like Wichie Artu, a data analytics and health specialist, said the commission will give BIPOC Vermonters, as well as Vermonters with disabilities and gay and transgender residents, a stronger voice in public health policy.

Legislation signed into law by Gov. Phil Scott last month seeks to mitigate those disparities by creating an Office of Health Equity, as well as a new Health Equity Commission. More from VPR: Building The Plane While We Fly It’: BIPOC Community Organizers Shrink The Gap On Vaccine Equity

“Those of us working in the health equity field called COVID-19 the racism pandemic, because it has resurfaced many of the issues that have existed for a long time,” said Dr. Maria Mercedes Avila, an associate professor of pediatrics at UVM’s Larner College of Medicine. “Those of us working in the health equity field called COVID-19 the racism pandemic, because it has resurfaced many of the issues that have existed for a long time.” – Dr. Maria Mercedes Avila, Larner College of Medicine at UVM

Artu’s pursuit of health equity in Vermont is one reason he and his fiancé purchased a farm in Athens, Vermont last year, shortly after the pandemic began. “What’s important is that we are providing power to a committee full of organizations who do the work on the ground, who understand the needs of the people,” said Artu, who also serves as vice president of the Windham County branch of the NAACP.

Artu is part of a growing community of BIPOC farmers in southern Vermont who are building a food system that honors the cultural diversity of all people who live there. And Magnetic Fields has a specific mission. Later this summer, Magnetic Fields, as they’ve named the operation, will yield vegetables and herbs used to make a Caribbean broth starter called sofrito.

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