North Carolina lawmakers tackle health disparities in the COVID-19 pandemic

Bill will address COVID-19 health disparities

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - The North Carolina House Select Health Care committee discussed Thursday what should be done to tackle health disparities in response to numbers that show how African Americans are being impacted by COVID-19.

Politicians were told that about 39 percent of people dying in North Carolina who had coronavirus are black. African Americans make up about 21 percent of the state’s population.

“A large majority of our people are essential workers as well,” Mecklenburg County Rep. Carla Cunningham said. “And are exposed worse that some of the other populations, but we have more of the underlying disease process.”

Diabetes, heart problems and other illnesses impact the African American community and having those ailments make it challenging to fight COVID-19.

Cunningham says there have been disparities happening in North Carolina and around the country for a long time.

“Because COVID-19 came along,” Cunningham said. “It’s definitely lifted the veil and put the spotlight back on health care disparities again. The state has not been addressing the long term issues of it.”

The committee is ready to draft a bill that will address these issues. It could include $2 million added to the health budget to emphasize awareness in the African American communities.

Cunningham says the five items the bill will include will be immediate health care needs, regulatory relief, emergency response, characterization of patient health, and federal regulations. Politicians says these issues should not be a black or white issue.

“The bottomline is that what affects one person in our state, as it relates to COVID-19 affects all of us,” Pitt and Wilson County Representative Jean Farmer-Butterfield said.

Politicians say there is much work to be done in this area. Lawmakers return to Raleigh at the end of April and that could be the time where a bill could be debated.

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