The City of Milwaukee’s Office of African American Affairs was awarded a $4 million grant to help reduce the racial disparities brought to the fore in the COVID-19 pandemic.
The city aims to accomplish that goal by using the federal funding to increase health literacy — the ability to access and use information and services to make health care decisions — among racial and ethnic minorities and other vulnerable communities, according to Mayor Tom Barrett’s office.
The effort will also seek to boost COVID-19 testing, contact tracing and vaccination rates in communities that are the focus of the grant funding.
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The city’s African American and Latino communities suffered particularly harsh tolls in the pandemic, which highlighted deep underlying disparities between white residents and residents of color.
“What we look forward to is not finding Milwaukee in a situation where we’re vulnerable to another course of illness or mortality because of issues around poverty or issues around what may be accessible in a neighborhood, whether that’s health care access or access to grocery stores or transportation,” Office of African American Affairs Director Darryl Davidson said Tuesday.
The two-year grant is part of a $250 million, two-year effort from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health to improve health literacy and ultimately improve COVID-19 vaccination rates and other mitigation efforts in underserved communities, according to the city.
Barrett said he sees the grant as supplementing efforts already underway in the community, but he also noted the lagging vaccination rates for people of color in Milwaukee County.
In Milwaukee County, 27.5% of Black residents and 38.3% of Hispanic residents have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine compared with 46.6% of white residents, according to data from the state Department of Health Services.
Health officials are particularly concerned about the risks posed by the Delta variant, particularly for unvaccinated individuals. The highly transmissible variant is expected to become dominant in the United States.
“In Milwaukee, as we all know, the COVID-19 pandemic exposed significant racial inequities, with the disease disproportionately affecting our communities of color,” Barrett said during a virtual news briefing Tuesday. “It is a crisis that requires prompt and thorough action, and this grant is a good step forward in that work.”
Contact Alison Dirr at 414-224-2383 or email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @AlisonDirr.
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