A message from Oregon Health Authority Director Patrick Allen
While health equity is a stated value of our agency, the COVID-19 pandemic has shown how far we are from eliminating health inequity in this state. A crisis has a tendency to expose your weaknesses and areas where systems are inadequate, and this pandemic has been no exception. The broad impacts of the coronavirus have fallen especially hard on Black and African American, Asian and Pacific Islander, Native American, and Latino, Latina, and Latinx people, in the U.S., and here in Oregon. A centuries-long history of racism and oppression have led to the very health conditions that exacerbate the impacts of COVID-19. And we at OHA were, frankly, too slow to recognize that threat and act on it. For that, I’m truly sorry.
The protests of the killing of George Floyd, while not directly related to the coronavirus, have certainly served to expose the fundamental injustice of our flawed systems, including in health care. As a result, people are angry, hurting, and afraid. I want to acknowledge those very real feelings, and acknowledge the failings, including ours, including mine, that have contributed to them.
OHA will do better. I will do better. We have to. We owe it to our communities. The health and safety of our communities depends on those of us in positions of privilege and leadership taking action.
OHA has been involved in conversations with leaders of Communities of Color in Oregon on how we rectify mistakes that have been made and form a better path for engagement. These conversations have included how OHA can better support the health of Black, African American, African immigrant, African refugee, and Afro-Latinos, Latinas, and Latinx communities. For the COVID-19 response, this includes:
- Improving collection of race and ethnicity data to better understand how hard the virus is impacting different communities.
- Improving access to testing, treatment and support services so we know who’s infected so we can help them recover.
- Supporting community-centered outreach and education for people to know how to protect themselves and their families and get the help they need.
- And helping more people get counseling to ease the worry and distress that can stem from the health and economic impacts of this disease.
I am committed to taking the steps necessary to be responsive to and engage and co-create solutions with Communities of Color to improve health outcomes. I encourage you to reach out to me any time with your thoughts and ideas at OHA.DirectorsOffice@state.or.us.
Oregonians encouraged to “Answer the Call” to stop the spread of COVID-19
As Oregon begins the slow process of reopening, one of public health’s key strategies to stopping the spread of COVID-19 is contact tracing. Contact tracers call people who may have been exposed to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 to provide them with guidance and support. OHA is working closely with local public and tribal health departments on a statewide coordinated contact tracing effort.
To help simplify the process of contact tracing, OHA has developed a webpage (in English and Spanish) with downloadable resources, videos and social media cards. You can learn more about who will get a contact tracing call, what happens on a contact tracing call and how your privacy will be protected. Downloadable one-pagers are available in 11 languages.
If you get a call from a contact tracer working for your local county or tribal health department, we encourage you to answer the call. Together, we can stop the spread of COVID-19.