GMercyU Hosts MercyTalk Discussing Health Equity in the Time of COVID-19

Launched in 2016, GMercyU's MercyTalk series tackles prominent, real-world issues head-on through thoughtful discussions with topical experts, with a focus on the critical concerns of the Sisters of Mercy: Earth, Immigration, Nonviolence, Anti-Racism, and Women.

The COVID-19 pandemic has made the past year uniquely difficult for people around the world and in our country. While everyone has been affected by the pandemic, some communities have experienced negative health impacts at disproportionate rates.

On Thursday, April 8, Gwynedd Mercy University hosted a MercyTalk entitled "Health Equity in the Time of COVID-19," focused on discussing health disparities in certain communities, why they exist, and what steps we can take to achieve health equity.

Sharla Willis, DrPH, MPH, MA, Founding Program Director and Assistant Professor of the Public Health Programs at GMercyU, served as the moderator and introduced the two panelists: Nang Tin Maung, PhD, MPH, the Deputy Director for the Coronavirus Science Branch for the California Department of Public Health; and Nelly Jimenez, CEO of ACLAMO, Accion Comunal Latinoamericana de Montgomery County.

Dr. Willis began the discussion by polling the audience about health disparities affecting their communities related to COVID-19, with the two biggest concerns being easy access to vaccinations and affordable health care.

"The challenges are many and constant," said Dr. Tin Maung. "The current public health system is not equipped to respond to and combat public health crises…which is causing inequalities to grow even more."

"We have failed to provide enough money and investments in public health in general," chimed in Ms. Jimenez. "Minority communities don't have enough doctors, don't have doctors who look like them, and don't have access to materials in their language, among other challenges."

As the discussion continued, Dr. Willis, Dr. Tin Maung, and Ms. Jimenez explored and explained how and why these health disparities are taking a toll on minority communities. They also shared how everyday citizens can address health equity and create positive change.

"You need to show compassion and a willingness to listen to people's stories," explained Ms. Jimenez. "Make a commitment to learning about the inequalities that exist and acknowledge them while engaging in conversations about them."

One specific example Ms. Jimenez provided was that if you're bilingual or multilingual, volunteer to translate materials into other languages so that more people can utilize them. You can also contact local elected officials to advocate for local communities that are in need.

Following the initial panel discussion, Dr. Willis opened the floor to the audience to share their questions with the panelists and further engaged the participants in the discussion. To end the event, Dr. Willis posed one more question for the audience to consider: "How do you plan to combat health disparities in your community?"

To view the entire MercyTalk, visit GMercyU's YouTube channel.