There will Always be a Disease

March 26, 2020
By Yanique Redwood

The date was March 26, 2013. Six months after joining Consumer Health Foundation, I penned my first blog post. Under the subtitle “There will Always be a Disease,” I wrote the following:

“We might mobilize to eradicate a disease, and we might even be successful in our efforts, but because there is always a new disease on the horizon, the health of those with very few resources will always be compromised. This leads to the logical conclusion that if we address the fundamental problem, we might have a better chance at eliminating the devastating impact of disease in our communities.”

The fundamental problems are racism and economic inequities.

So here we are again. We have created free school lunch programs to tackle hunger and its nutritional consequences. We know how to run programs to get free mammograms to Black women in disinvested communities. We are experts at smoking cessation. In the process we have spent massive amounts of public and private resources to address malnutrition, breast cancer and lung cancer. Yet, there is a new virus causing respiratory illnesses, and those with the fewest resources will bear the brunt of our failure to create an equitable society.

We are learning from the COVID-19 pandemic that when children must stay home, many do not eat. Our carefully planned school lunch programs cannot feed them. When businesses must close their doors and they choose not to pay low-wage workers, evictions are imminent because housing is not a human right. Many people in our most disinvested communities have stopped smoking cigarettes and are getting mammograms, yet they still do not have the full security needed to respond to the impacts of COVID-19—wealth to help cushion the blow, guaranteed income and free housing.

My colleague Temi sent me a tweet by @elkhalifag:

It is a shame that we have to bottom out for governments to make the moves they are making, but if that is what it takes, let us use this opening. Let’s drive wealth into communities of color. Let’s make guaranteed income permanent and add a reparative component for Black and indigenous people. Let’s finally realize housing as a human right, especially for people of color who have been gentrified out of cities. Since school is out, let’s scrap curricula and reinvent them so that all children learn the truth about our racialized history. This is the moment that COVID-19 has given us to organize and build a movement for anti-racist systems change.

A group of systems change funders met this week and while we are responding to the basic needs that COVID-19 has further illuminated, we envision a longer-term strategy. That strategy leads with supporting organizing and capacity building for grassroots groups led by people of color who were advocating for systems change before COVID-19. We are considering how to simplify and streamline paperwork to get money out the door quickly. My colleague Nat Williams of the Hill-Snowdon Foundation asked, “Why can’t we act in these ways permanently?” To learn more about how we are supporting grassroots groups and reinventing our giving to better support systems change, contact Rubie Coles at Diverse City Fund (rubie@diversecityfund.org) or Yanique Redwood at Consumer Health Foundation (president@consumerhealthfdn.org).

2 responses to “There will Always be a Disease”

  1. Gloria Nauden says:

    Amazing leadership being a forerunner on this front Yanique.

  2. Leonard Edwards says:

    This was a good read Yanique! And everything that you mentioned in the newsletter was/is the truth. Please continue to be the great leader that you are; because we need an army of people like you.

    Thanks

    Leonard Edwards

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