Champions Discuss the Intersection of Poverty and Health

By United Way of King County, on August 18, 2020 | In Champions

Finding positive things to reflect on this year—much less celebrate—can seem challenging. Yet, a group of United Way Champions gathered recently to do just that. 

Grounding their conversation in how racial inequities in our community have been exasperated by COVID-19, a group of United Way Champions met recently to discuss some positive progress being made.

The annual Champions Celebration was held virtually this year, and hosted by outgoing Campaign Co-Chairs Chris Capossela and Leigh Toner. The group was joined by Dr. Matias Valenzuela, Equity Director at Seattle/King County Public Health, and Dr. Ben Danielson, physician at Seattle Children’s Odessa Brown Clinic, discussing both the data of COVID-19 and its impact on families. 

Matias started by sharing some “jaw-dropping statistics”: when compared to the white community, cases are 6x higher for Pacific Islanders, 5x higher for Latinos and nearly 3x higher for the Black community.

The reasons, of course, are systemic issues. For example, a disproportionate number of essential workers—and low-paid positions like bus drivers, restaurant workers—are more likely to be filled by people of color. People of color are more likely to live in multigenerational households—so are at a higher risk of spreading infection to more people in their homes.

 It’s very clear that we are dealing with two crisis: COVID-19 and racism. The question is: Can we put the same level of resources, rigor and attention to racism that we have to COVID-19?  If we’re worried about the well-being and health of everyone, racism is the issue we need to address.

Dr. Matias Valenzuela

Dr. Danielson talked about the quick decisions he’s seen made during the pandemic by hospitals, state and county governances and the like during this pandemic. He shared that, of course, these decisions need to be made quickly, but that it’s also important that we think about the implications of these decisions. He called it the “equity pause” that asks three questions: Is the community centered in this? What are we assuming about people and their abilities? What are the unintended consequences?

Just like surgeons who need to pause before making life and death decisions/actions, we need to pause—take a breath—and think about how these decisions impact different communities.

Dr. Ben Danielson

Incoming Campaign Co-Chairs, Ethan Stowell and Steve Hooper, shared with the group the importance of Champions’ ongoing support. The implications of this economic crisis will be long-term and philanthropy will play a critical role in how we rebound as a community. 


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