October 2020 COVID-19 Equity Task Force Update

by Raaga Devineni, COVID-19 Equity Task Force Coordinator

We have previously reported on the establishment and activities of the New Hampshire COVID-19 Equity Task Force and want to keep you up-to-date. The New Hampshire Public Health Association (NHPHA), in partnership with the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services’ (DHHS) Office of Health Equity and Division of Public Health Services, continues to co-convene The New Hampshire COVID-19 Equity Task Force. The task force is a collective of over 50 individuals and organizations across NH representing multiple sectors and communities that have come together to address issues of equity arising from the COVID-19 pandemic and response. This is intended to broaden the network of people/organizations so we may support each other more intentionally and strategically, not to supersede or duplicate existing efforts, and to identify any needed advocacy that some of the partner organizations may be able to pursue when we form a broader coalition.

Task Force Accomplishments and Actions

The COVID-19 Equity Task Force initially convened on March 27 and now meets every two weeks with close to 60 individuals consistently participating and new participants joining weekly. Seven workgroups continue to meet to address the following areas of concern: concerns related to immigrants, digital divide and education, food insecurity, housing insecurity and homelessness, justice involved/incarceration/detention, mental health and substance use, and older adults and people with disabilities. Recently the Task Force:

  • Sent a letter to the Governor Sununu advocating for a universal mask mandate to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in NH.
  • A copy of the letter to the governor about the universal mask mandate was sent to the New Hampshire media. The task force coordinator also represented the group in an interview about the use of masks with Daniela Allee from NHPR.
  • The Digital Divide and Education group assessed the feedback from the successful virtual listening session conducted last month with parents, teachers and students to understand the challenges of remote learning related to persons with disabilities, language access, and technology. The group is in the process of taking further action.
  • The task force is exploring aspects of intersectionality between the seven topical groups and the most effective collaborations to take a more well-rounded approach.
  • Multiple groups and individuals in the task force are applying for funding from New futures to support advocacy in effecting policy changes related to COVID-19 and equity issues.

The members of the task force continue to communicate with grassroots organizations and leaders at the state, local, and national levels in pursuit of its goals.

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