Minority Health Institute hosts town hall addressing the COVID-19 impact on black communities

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Dr. Richard Williams grew up in a segregated community where he experienced the racial disparities of the healthcare system.

Since then, he said medicine and healthcare for blacks hasn't changed much. But an encounter with a kind doctor who looked like him changed his life.

"I wanted to emulate a black physician who treated me when I was four years old in Wilmington, Delaware. I wanted to be just like him," Williams said.

The doctor, who is the president and founder of the Minority Health Institute, is leading a virtual town hall on Thursday titled "COVID-19: The Battle to Save Black Lives" in an effort to provide data, tips, and resources from like-minded leaders during the coronavirus pandemic.

"We have to do some coalition building," he said. "We have to do some education."

Black Angelenos are dying from COVID-19 at a disproportionate rate, according to data released Tuesday from the LA County Department of Public Health.

The death rate in L.A. County is about 9 per 100,000 people, as of April 28 data, but for the black and African American population, it's about 16 per 100,000 people.

"We find that African Americans or blacks, for instance, have much more of the major killers, such as heart disease, hypertension, cancer, and also obesity and diabetes, as well as asthma and a number of other disorders," said Williams.

The county data also shows many communities of color with incomes below the county median have higher death rates.

The community of West Rancho Dominguez, a majority black community in South LA and west of Compton has about 74 deaths per 100,000 people. Other communities like East Hollywood, View Heights, Pico-Union and Westlake, all communities of color, have deaths rates higher than 40 per 100,000 people - all nearly 5 times the county's rate or more.

"It's not only African Americans, but Latina, LatinX communities, as well as Asian American communities suffer disproportionately, because of these these underlying comorbidities," said Williams.


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And while Williams said these problems have been there for years, now there is an opportunity to "unmask" them.

"COVID-19...in a sense, has given us this opportunity to look deeper into these problems," he said.

You can watch the virtual town hall in the videos above.

For more information about Minority Health Institute, visit http://mhinst.org/.

Below is a list of the panelists joining Dr. Williams at the town hall.
  • David Pryor, MD MPH, Regional Vice President, Medical Director, Anthem

  • Jehan (Gigi) El-Bayoumi, MD, FACP, Founding Director, Rodham Institute Professor of Medicine, George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences


  • Patrice A. Harris, MD, MA, President, American Medical Association

  • Oliver T. Brooks, MD, Chief Medical Officer, Watts HealthCare Corporation President, National Medical Association

  • Muntu Davis, MD, MPH, County Health Officer, Los Angeles County Department of Public Health

  • Vickie M. Mays, PhD, MSPH, Professor, UCLA Department of Psychology in the College of Letters and Sciences, Professor, UCLA Department of Health Services, Director, UCLA Center on Bridging Research, Innovation, Training and Education for Minority Health Disparities Solutions

  • Gustavo Friederichsen, CEO, Los Angeles County Medical Association

  • Lisa Barkley, MD, FAAFP, FSAHM, FACSM, Chair and Program Director, Family Medicine Residency, Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science

  • Mia Keeys, MA, Director of Health Equity Policy & Advocacy, American Medical Association

  • Reverend J. Edgar Boyd, Pastor, First African Methodist Episcopal Church of Los Angeles


  • Grace Manthey contributed to this story.
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