The Western New York 21-Day Racial Equity Challenge

day 11: how your race affects your health 

In April 2020, when The Buffalo News took a comprehensive look at the county mortality data, 30% of those who died from COVID-19 were Black even though they account for only 14% of the county's population.

According to Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz in an interview with The Buffalo News, "...we’ve done a better job by working with many partners, including hospitals, nursing homes, but also with our friends in the African-American Health Disparities Task Force to get resources into the city, to identify cases early so that individuals get the services they need, and they don’t wait until it’s too late." Even though interventions were made locally to change the trend of COVID-19 deaths in Erie County, there are still systemic problems that need to be addressed to create equity in how healthcare is delivered. Now we are facing an issue of COVID vaccine equity and large racial disparities in who has received the vaccine.

Within many of our nation’s healthcare institutions, medical racism against Black, Indigenous and other People of Color is systemic and widespread. Racism manifests itself in countless ways (i.e., higher black infant and mother mortality rates, beliefs that Blacks experience less pain, racial bias introduced in medical school training) and makes equitable access to healthcare more difficult.

Healthcare costs also make up a significant portion of a household’s annual budget, placing additional stress on families that may or may not have insurance and access to quality care. The 2018 ALICE Report indicates that ALICE and poverty-level families are more likely to become ill because their basic needs for health insurance coverage and regular, quality preventative care are not being met. As you engage with one or more of today’s Activities, ponder one or more strategies you or your organization might consider to prevent health inequity in WNY.


  1. Read “Implicit Bias and Racial Disparities in Health Care.” (5 minutes)
  2. Watch “How Racism Makes Us Sick.” (17 minutes)
  3. Check out this Fact Sheet from the American Psychological Association exploring the compounding impact of socioeconomic status and race on health.


DAY 12: Racial Disparities in Birth Outcomes


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