Dr. Uché Blackstock on pandemic fatigue—And the new COVID normal

Please note: This transcript has been automatically generated.

Brittany Packnett Cuningham Hey, y’all, it’s Brittany. February has arrived. Happy Lunar New Year, and of course, happy Black History Month. So let me mind my Black business and let y’all know something. Black History Month was actually not created for corporate virtue signaling. I know it’s shocking. Carter G. Woodson, the godfather of Black History, once said if a race has no history, if it has no worthwhile tradition, it becomes a negligible factor in the thought of the world and it stands in danger of being exterminated.

Dr. Woodson would go on to create Negro History Week in 1926 to teach Black history in segregated southern schools. He chose February to honor Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass’s birthdays, along with some Black celebrations that were happening at the time. And in the early 70s Negro History Week became Black History Month. But I dare not say the rest is history. The rest is present, as Black history is being made every day by Black folks across the globe who are creating more and discovering more, designing equitable worlds and leading transformation. So I’m thinking about Black history and Black futures, ones that will be erased if some screaming conservative parents and politicians have anything to do with it. Black History Month was never meant to be a corporate holiday or the repetition of the same five Black names in your child’s school presentation. It is meant to declare that every place a Black person stands is our rightful place, both then and now. It is meant to be a revolution, and we are the ones who can help make it so. We are UNDISTRACTED. 

On the show today, Dr. Uché Blackstock. I’ll be talking to the founder of Advancing Health Equity about the current state of COVID and why it’s important that we all remain vigilant.

Uché Blackstock, M.D. We all have pandemic fatigue, but there’s certain ones of us that are more privileged, that can afford to say: You know what, I’m over and done with this. The job that I have doesn’t expose me. I can work from home. But the fact is, it’s mostly low income workers that are getting infected, hospitalized, and dying. 

Brittany Packnett Cuningham That’s coming up. But first, it’s your UnTrending news. So we talked last week about the fact that Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer will soon be retiring, and that President Biden plans to nominate a Black woman to the court. This week, predictably, the backlash against that from the right was out in full force, with politicians dismissing Biden’s promise as quote, affirmative action. That’s wrong for a bunch of reasons. First of all, it is ignorant of history. Both Reagan and Trump intentionally nominated women, and besides, our courts have plenty of talented Black women who are beyond qualified. Here’s NYU Professor Melissa Murray, who’s reportedly also being considered for the role. 

Melissa Murray I’m reminded of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s words: When will there be enough women on the court? When there are nine. There could easily be nine Black women who could fill all of the seats on the Supreme Court. 

Brittany Packnett Cuningham You damn right. Bottom line: The right’s affirmative action take discredits the brains and the talent of these highly qualified women who are not monolithic, by the way. My hope is that we will have a Black progressive woman on the bench, one who is not only a Black woman, but who makes life better for Black women. Because history shows that when it’s better for us, everybody wins. 

Next up, unsurprisingly, teachers in this country are stressed the hell out and looking for the exit doors. A poll just released by the National Education Association found that 55 percent of educators are planning to leave the profession earlier than planned. Why? You can probably guess it. Massive burnout. There are currently half a million fewer educators in America’s public schools today than there were before the pandemic, which means that the teachers who are left are stretched thin by trying to provide for students in the most desperate of circumstances. And the burden has fallen heaviest on teachers of color who were more likely in this poll to say they were thinking of leaving. Here’s Becky Pringle, the head of the NEA, who’s been calling the situation a five alarm fire. 

Becky Pringle The people have dedicated their lives to educating America’s students, pushing through fear, pushing through exhaustion, pushing through teaching eighty students in a class, not getting lunch during the day. We’ve got to care for them because if we don’t, then we’re going to have an even bigger crisis.

Brittany Packnett Cuningham Now you know, I used to be a third grade teacher, so sadly, I get this. The NEA is rightfully calling on our governments, local, state and federal to improve working conditions – and hello – wages for teachers. Personally, I’d like to see every single candidate running for office grilled on this issue because it is absolutely that important.

Now, heads up. Our last story is about suicide, so please take care while listening. Last weekend, it was announced that former Miss USA Cheslie Kryst died by suicide. She was only 30 years old. It’s heartbreaking, and the problem is sadly bigger than Cheslie. Last week, Kevin Ward, the first openly gay mayor of Hyattsville, Maryland, right next door to where I live, also died by suicide. And so did Regina King’s son Ian Alexander, Jr.. Here’s Vivica Fox, who’s a friend of the family, speaking on the issue. 

Vivica Fox COVID and everything has got everybody in a dark spot. If you ever see any signs of someone being in distress, check on them because, you know, I’ve never thought about suicide in our community, how so many people are taking their own lives, that don’t want to be here. That’s the scary part. 

Brittany Packnett Cuningham Oh, what is going on? Between 2014 and 2019, the suicide rate increased by 30 percent for Black people, and the data is especially stark for our young ones. Over the past 20 years, suicide attempts have risen nearly 80 percent in Black adolescents, and in 2019, suicide was the second leading cause of death among Black people ages 15 through 24.

I didn’t know any of these people personally, but I do know that so many of us suffer through our struggles and our traumas without the support we need. We must reduce the stigma and increase access to care. I’ve been there and thank God I’m still here. If you or someone you know needs immediate support, please reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK or by phone or text to Black Line at 1-800 604-5841. Coming up, I’ll be talking to Dr. Uché Blackstock about the real reasons why Black people and people of color are most impacted by the pandemic. Right after this short break. 

And we are back. So from Black history to Black futures, I shudder to think about a single truth of this pandemic that continues to haunt me: Because of COVID-19 Black American life expectancy dropped nearly three years. Latiné folks lost nearly two years, and overall the U.S. average life expectancy is the lowest it’s been in 15 years. And even after two plus years, there’s still a ton of confusion and a lot of offensive perspectives in the air. You know, like, let’s move on. I’m over the pandemic. Guess what, baby? The pandemic ain’t over you. And it is still a massive threat to people who are disabled, immunocompromised, elderly, and children. Even those long haulers who are young and were in great health will tell you just how devastating COVID can be. So how do we care for one another? How do we tackle this latest phase and prepare for the next ones, all while knowing the most marginalized are still suffering economically and, yes, physically? Dr. Uché Blackstock is a physician based in New York and a prominent thought leader on bias and racism in health care. I sat down with her this past week to clear up some of the confusion, as well as talk about the systemic racism behind severe COVID rates.

Brittany Packnett Cunningham Dr. Uché Blackstock, it is so great to have you here. It’s been spreading like wildfire, right? But there’s been so much news about the relative mildness of Omicron, and it’s led a lot of people, including some medical experts, to declare that, like, the worst is over despite the surge in hospitalizations. I’m curious what you think. Just how cautious do we really need to be?

Uché Blackstock, M.D. Right, well, thank you so much for having me on Brittany, and what I will say is I totally agree with your concern. I think that there is this mainstream media narrative that even some of my colleagues have adopted, and I think it’s because, you know, we all have pandemic fatigue, but there are certain ones of us that are more privileged. That can afford to say, You know what, I’m over and done with this because the job that I have doesn’t expose me to being infected. I actually, I can work from home, or I essentially have the means to keep myself safe. But the fact is, is that when you look at COVID infection rates and you stratify it by income, it’s mostly low income workers that are getting infected, hospitalized, and dying from COVID. It’s people who are uninsured. And so, that’s why I try to be incredibly thoughtful, especially when I’m on air or even on social media, about how I portray that narrative. Because the fact is is that Omicron is not the last variant. And I say, I Omicron is a gift, and I know people sometimes don’t understand that. But it’s a gift, because could you imagine if we had a variant that was as virulent, meaning it causes as severe disease, as Delta, but as transmissible, meaning as contagious, as Omicron? Everything would be at a standstill because our hospital systems would have been absolutely broken. People would be in the streets. 

Brittany Packnett Cunningham Yeah. 

Uché Blackstock, M.D. You know, like it just would be a horrible, horrible situation, but we don’t want to get there. And so one thing that I’ve been talking a lot about is really we need to think about policies on a local, state, and federal level that are going to keep everybody safe and that we cannot pull back on any of those measures until we reduce the cases and we are not there yet. 

Brittany Packnett Cunningham I mean, you talk about making sure that we don’t pull back on the measures, meanwhile other people have been making claims that like everybody is going to get exposed to COVID or everybody is going to get COVID, so we just might as well get on with our lives. That makes me terrified, quite frankly, because it seems like that’s a really big gamble against unknown odds, especially for people whose health conditions put them at a high risk for serious effects, right? 

Uché Blackstock, M.D. Right. And the thing is, it doesn’t necessarily have to happen that everyone’s going to get infected. Right? There are countries in Asia, for example, that actually have done a really great job of controlling the spread of Coronavirus. And when people hear us talk about Asian countries, they’re assuming we’re talking about lockdown situations. But no, the fact is, is that certain yes, certain behavior is limited. You can’t go to a club with a thousand people, but you may be able to go with 500 people. Like, there are certain restrictions that are in place and still in place two plus years in this pandemic that keep people safe. And I think we have to think about the collective and that’s something I think other cultures do. That is not, you know, something that we find in U.S./American culture. Everyone’s out for themselves, they’re not caring about people who are immunocompromised, people who are elderly, children who still are not eligible to be vaccinated. 

Brittany Packnett Cunningham That makes me think about the hashtag started by our friend, Imani Barbarin. My disabled life is worthy, right? Because it’s been highlighting the disability community’s frustrations with this privileged, and I would really say, cruel attitude. 

Uché Blackstock, M.D. Yes. And I’m so grateful to Imani and her voice and those of, you know, other people with disabilities, that are on social media that are bringing attention to this, because, you know, when Dr. Walensky of the CDC sort of, you know, was talking about hospitalizations from Omicron and saying: Oh, but only people who have multiple risk factors. So we’re actually are sort of pleased with how the vaccines are behaving. But it’s like, no, no, no, let’s let’s step back. 

Brittany Packnett Cunningham Right. 

Uché Blackstock, M.D. First of all, we really want to try to have a collective response and that is deeply rooted in the tenets of public health. And it’s really what is best for the collective good? And so when we’re not thinking about people with disabilities, we are essentially excluding them. We’re not considering, you know, what does it look like to have to navigate a society that doesn’t care about how you do, but they’re OK because they’re fully vaccinated and boosted? And, you know, overall good health, they don’t have to worry about getting sick?

Brittany Packnett Cunningham Yeah, I mean, it’s a gamble for immunocompromised people, for disabled people. It’s also a gamble for parents, particularly with children under five, like you said. 

Uché Blackstock, M.D. Right.

Brittany Packnett Cunningham And child hospitalization rates have hit some record highs. You have two school aged children in New York. What factors are you personally considering when you’re deciding whether or not to send them back to school? Or are they going to that birthday party? Are you sending them out into the world in general? How were you thinking about that? 

Uché Blackstock, M.D. Right. And what I’ll say, Brittany, is that I want to just step back and say this schooling, as we know education is an equity issue. 

Brittany Packnett Cunningham Yes. 

Uché Blackstock, M.D. This decision that parents have to make, I think, is a decision that no parent should have to make. But the fact is, is that there’s so much variation in, you know between public schools and private schools and resources that they have. And we know sort of the legacy of education in public schools. The infrastructure in public schools is not what it should be. My children are in New York City Public Schools, and their principal and assistant principal, they’re Black women who are just amazing and I know are taking care of my babies, but they also are incredibly transparent with communication. They have town halls. They tell us this is what we’re going to do. These are the policies, you know, everyone is going to wear a mask at a minimum. I can’t even imagine being a parent in a city or state where the mask mandates are being restricted in a school, because schools are not inherently safe, they’re safe if you put these public health measures in place. So are the windows open? Are there air purifiers in the room? You know, what percentage of the students are vaccinated? What percentage of the teachers are vaccinated? So all of that matters. But there is such variability across the country, depending on the community. Right? That we cannot inherently say that schools are safe. That’s why I always say that there should be a remote learning option. Also, given the history, you know, societal institutions have always proven to be untrustworthy, especially to our communities. So that’s why early in the pandemic, when Black parents, Latinx parents were saying, You know, I don’t feel comfortable sending my kids to school, but white parents were saying, You know what? They’re going to be OK. But we’re talking about different communities, different resources. It’s not the same.

Brittany Packnett Cunningham So let’s talk about some of those rules because this conversation has been deeply clarifying already. But at the end of last year, at the end of 2021, the CDC issued some adjustments to their guidelines, and they didn’t make a lot of sense to everyone. They didn’t make a lot of sense to me. They got a lot of backlash for cutting down the isolation time if you are tested positive with COVID from 10 days to five. 

Uché Blackstock, M.D. Right.

Brittany Packnett Cunningham To what extent has the CDC and its messaging and perhaps the people that influenced them been adding to all of this collective confusion? 

Uché Blackstock, M.D. Yeah, you know, it’s so interesting because at the beginning of the pandemic, we were concerned that the CDC’s work was being heavily, heavily influenced by the Trump administration, that we weren’t hearing from them. And so I thought with the change in administration, you know, there would be a 180. Well, unfortunately, I feel like they’ve stumbled, and you’ve mentioned some of those stumbles already. And most recently was that the isolation guideline, which you know, you hear it, you’re saying, OK, people don’t need to stay home for 10 days. They can stay home for five days if they’re infected and then leave with a mask and no rapid tests to make sure that they’re not contagious. 

Brittany Packnett Cunningham  Right. 

Uché Blackstock, M.D. And you know, I think for many of us, we’re like, that seems to be driven not by public health ideals, but more by profit and financial concerns, right? And that’s essentially what it was. We, you know, we have this contagious virus that is essentially causing societal disruption. People are home sick. They can’t go to work. If they’re nurses or physicians, they can’t go to work to help take care of the sick people. They’re essential workers, you know, everything is just going to go to the wayside. So essentially they changed the guidelines to make people work, you know, and not honoring the humanity of people needing paid sick leave or needing paid isolation or quarantine leave, or making sure people have insurance, health insurance so they can go make sure that they’re OK before they go back to work. And so I think these guidelines or these missteps the CDC has made has really undermined the public’s trust. So when I am on MSNBC talking about this, this is what the CDC says. You know, people are like, Hmm, but can I trust them?

Brittany Packnett Cunningham Right. 

Uché Blackstock, M.D. And I can’t be mad. I can’t be mad at them because I think that is a valid question. 

Brittany Packnett Cunningham You know, this is what I appreciate about you so much, Dr. Blackstock, because you are not just coming with justified complaint frustration. You are also clearly coming with solutions, right? I mean, I follow you on Twitter and you’ve been talking consistently about the kind of layered protections, systemic protections that you believe need to be in place. Free masks, rapid tests for everyone. Indoor mask policies in public places. Air travel vaccine mandates. Nonessential workers being able to work from home. The kind of leave that you’re talking about, the remote school option. Why are we not seeing this level of systemic response? 

Uché Blackstock, M.D. Well, I mean one, I think it boils down to politics. That’s a factor. I mean, if we’re gonna be really honest about it, when the Biden administration transitioned in, when you look at the list of what they wanted to do, a lot of that you just mentioned was in there. But I think that, you know, obviously there was a lot of pushback from GOP leadership about it. So instead of saying, OK, let’s keep going. I do think they bend to to that political pressure, unfortunately. And I think two, the other concern is, I think, financial, economic interests, right? I think they’re concerned about the economy. They want the economyf to do well. And so they think the economy will do well if you keep everything open. But the fact is is if this virus is not contained, right, if we don’t put those measures in place and make sure public health is good, the economy is never going to be good. 

Brittany Packnett Cunningham Yeah, and people are certainly struggling financially. They’re struggling with their health. I think people are also just tired. People are tired because of the pandemic and people are also tired of the pandemic.

Uché Blackstock, M.D. Right.

Brittany Packnett Cunningham So you talked about that, that pandemic fatigued before. How do you measure that as part of what’s going on? And do you feel like that’s contributing to it? 

Uché Blackstock, M.D. No, no, absolutely. That’s that is another factor. And the fact is, is that I think we all are tired of it. But I think a lot of us, depending on our privilege, what kind of work we do, what communities we live in. You know, that impacts whether or not we’re like, OK, but we still need to be staying safe. We still need to be looking out for our neighbors and our community and other people. Just like, you know what? I’m fully boosted. If I get it, I won’t have to go to the hospital. You know, I’ll probably not feel well for a few days, but I’m good. 

Brittany Packnett Cunningham Yeah. 

Uché Blackstock, M.D. So again, I think it’s that culture, you know, that individualism, that personal responsibility, you know, that American exceptionalism in that way, I think, is contributing to a big faction of even medical experts saying, You know what, let’s just learn to live with this. But the thing is, yes, COVID is going to become endemic, meaning there’s going to be a steady state with occasional outbreaks, but they’re going to be well controlled. It’s not endemic yet when we have an exponential rise in cases when there are still tens of thousands of people in the hospital and our and our hospitals are at capacity. That’s not what endemic means. 

Brittany Packnett Cunningham I mean, you point specifically to the amount of privilege that dictates how so many of us are looking at this. If we zoom out. We know that the pandemic has definitely brought to light a lot of the stark inequalities in this country, right? And so-

Uché Blackstock, M.D. Absolutely. 

Brittany Packnett Cunningham Certainly a lot of that inequality is true when it comes to health care. What has the data revealed so far about the underlying structural racism at play? 

Uché Blackstock, M.D. Right. And even when you mention the pediatric hospitalizations, I meant to mention that when you look at pediatric deaths, it’s mostly Black and Latinx children that have died from COVID, disproportionately so. And so we have these factors, they’re called social determinants of health, right? They are what determines how healthy a person is or a community is. That’s job, that’s education, transportation, access to health care. And we saw at the beginning of the pandemic and we’ve seen it since in surges, but we know that Black people and other people of color are most impacted because of the kind of work that we have, the fact that we are essential workers and service workers. And we see that when we look at the demographics of who is infected, hospitalized and who is dying, even how our housing, the fact that we are more likely to live in multigenerational housing, that also is a risk factor as well. The fact that our schools don’t have the infrastructure for proper air filtration and ventilation, right? Or even social distancing. The fact that our classrooms are more likely to be overcrowded, and the fact that we don’t have access to health care, or if we do have access to health care, it’s not quality health care. Right? And so we saw all of those factors ongoing throughout the pandemic as contributing factors to why we have been so disproportionately impacted by this virus. 

Brittany Packnett Cunningham I remember at the very beginning, back in 2020, I was doing a late night segment on Ali Velshi. He asked me about COVID, which I wasn’t expecting, right? Because it was this kind of new and simmering thing. And most certainly, I do not have your background. I am not a medical expert, but I do read and I was like, You know, I understand that the co-morbidities that we’re seeing, the preexisting conditions that we’re seeing that interact particularly with COVID are ones that disproportionately affect Black and Brown people. Asthma, diabetes, all of these kinds of things because of the systemic issues in health care that you’re talking about. And when I said that on air, I thought I was just saying like two plus two equals four and the kind of response I got, you would have thought, I said, to burn down the White House. I mean, people were so angry. 

Uché Blackstock, M.D. Oh yes. 

Brittany Packnett Cunningham That we were pointing out this really normal thing. The backlash has had to be just outrageous for you. 

Uché Blackstock, M.D. Oh yes, I mean, right, you’re pointing out essentially the obvious. And I will say that even when I when I first heard about the virus in Wuhan and as physicians and I was working in urgent care then, they sent us a description of which patients in China were at risk. And I saw the list and I said, Oh, no—diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, asthma. I said, our communities are going to be most impacted by this. And so even before it got here, I had written a piece about that. How I was worried that our communities were going to be just devastated by COVID, but the fact is, is that it’s easier for the majority to ascribe personal responsibility for someone getting sick than to say this is a systemic issue because that’s admitting that one, there’s a lot of work to do and that two, that the system is just racist and racist in every institution, including health care.

Brittany Packnett Cunningham  Yeah.

Uché Blackstock, M.D. I mean, the fact is, and I always say this like Black and Brown communities have been placed at risk for doing poorly if exposed and infected with coronavirus because there is nothing biological, biologically deficient about our bodies. But it’s what happens to our health, our bodies by living in a society with systemic racism. And they’re just all of these factors that are worsening our health, basically, and they worsen our health outcomes. 

Brittany Packnett Cunningham That phrase placed at risk is so powerful, both because it rightfully places faults on systems and not on individuals, but also it reminds us that these are the results of active choices, that this is not a passive result, that there were choices and decisions that were made that got us to the place where, you know, the COVID death rate for Black people is more than twice as high as it is for for white people. For Latinx folks, it’s 50 percent higher. These are the realities that you’re discussing. 

Uché Blackstock, M.D. Absolutely. 

Brittany Packnett Cunningham And back in 2020 in June, you testified in front of the US House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis. 

Uché Blackstock, M.D. Yes. 

Brittany Packnett Cunningham About these racial health inequities. What were some of your recommendations and where do we stand on those? 

Uché Blackstock, M.D. You know, it’s interesting because I think when I testified, I think I may have brought up redlining because I wanted to tie in how federal policies, even federal housing policies and housing discrimination have impacted our communities. The point where we are seeing these health inequities, we saw them before COVID and we’re seeing them worsened during COVID. But a lot of my recommendations to them were based on the social determinants of health. It was based on investing in affordable housing. It was also based on improving the infrastructure in our schools. It was based on expanding Medicaid, so that people have health insurance. So it was all, there were all policy based recommendations because we know if systemic racism is what worsens our outcomes, we need policy based solutions to improve the health. This is not about telling someone that you need to go and eat more vegetables, or you need to take your blood pressure medications, right? This is acknowledging that there are deeply embedded systemic problems that have been here historically, and that are still here in the current day that are impacting the health of our communities. So when people ask me, how can we protect our communities from COVID? Yes, there are short term: give people access to personal protective equipment, make sure they have paid sick leave, make sure that there are policies in place, like indoor mask mandates that keep them safe. But, long term, we need to invest federal funding in our communities. I even talked about reparations when I talked to the House Select Committee because, again, this pandemic is another reminder of how much our communities have lost in terms of funding, in terms of human suffering and lives. And so reparations is one way to address that. 

Brittany Packnett Cunningham Amen to that. I mean, your brilliance on all of this is hard earned, is also generational. I know you are a second generation physician. Your late mother was the original Dr. Blackstock. And your sister is a primary care physician. 

Uché Blackstock, M.D.Yes.

Brittany Packnett Cunningham But your story is atypical, right? You’ve noted that today only six percent of physicians are Black and Black women account for less than three percent of U.S. doctors, while Black people, of course, represent 13 percent of the population. I know in my own life, finding a Black doctor has been a challenge. I remember I had a Black pediatrician growing up in St. Louis, and there were two Black pediatricians. And like all the Black kids in St. Louis either went to Doctor Tillman or the other one. We were all there because there were only two. So beyond challenging structural racism through policy and practices, what else can be done to truly not just diversify the medical field, but to make the whole health care workforce a place of equity and justice? 

Uché Blackstock, M.D. So I think of two things. I think of the pipeline issue. The fact that, you know, we need to prepare more Black and Brown children to work within the health care workforce if that is something that they want, and that starts like even before K through 12, right, that starts really investing in education within our communities. But I think also for non-Black and Brown people that work in the health care workforce, they need to understand the biases they come in with, the history, the current day discrimination that often they perpetuate in providing care. And that education, I think, also has to happen before medical school. So when we talk about, you know, this whole debate over critical race theory, what it really is is we need to teach all children, 

Brittany Packnett Cunningham Yeah.

Uché Blackstock, M.D. The real history. Right? And that is going to be so important to how people show up as physicians when they see patients. 

Brittany Packnett Cunningham Absolutely. And you started your own organization to address this, Advancing Health Equity. It’s really focused on these issues of diversity, inclusion, equity in health care. You believe that every health care organization, not just the ones led by BIPOC folks, or marginalized folks; every health organization should be committed to closing the gap in racialized health outcomes. 

Uché Blackstock, M.D. Absolutely. And it was my own experiences as a Black woman, as a Black woman physician, you know, navigating predominantly white spaces, you know, taking care of patients that look like me, knowing the data in terms of the outcomes, that really motivated me to step down advancing health equity. And we’ve been working with all different types of health care organizations, also around the workplace culture because we know if the culture within a health care organization is inequitable, that it’s eventually going to trickle down to the care that is provided or to how medical students learn, right? How doctors are taught so that’s what motivated me.

Brittany Packnett Cunningham Powerful stuff. Before I leave you, I have to get back to where we are now with COVID. You know, there’s some hope that we’re at a turning point. But despite that, this entire situation still has so many Americans, myself included, questioning why the supposed richest, most perfect country in the entire world has the most COVID deaths. Obviously, we need universal, accessible, equitable health care. What do you think it will take for us to finally achieve that? 

Uché Blackstock, M.D. You know what, I think, I think we’ll probably see it, maybe not in our lifetime, but I think we’re seeing it a little bit with Medicaid expansion. But essentially we’re seeing in certain states with GOP leadership, we’re not seeing the expansions happen. And so the people on the ground, the grassroots efforts, the organizers still have to really work towards that universal health care. I know there are a lot of health care professionals, including myself, who feel strongly about it. It’s about who you vote for on the local level. We know that makes a difference, and we have to continue our advocacy. But I also am concerned that universal health care is something that we may not see in this lifetime, but we really have to keep pushing for it because we know that just even having universal health care will change and improve health outcomes, especially in our communities.

Brittany Packnett Cunningham Well we’ve got our marching orders from you. Dr. Blackstock, thank you so much for spending time with us. Thanks for all that you do to keep us informed and to make sure that everyone from the government to our health organizations are doing the right thing. 

Uché Blackstock, M.D. Thank you so much, Brittany. 

Brittany Packnett Cuningham Dr. Uché Blackstock is a physician and the founder of Advancing Health Equity. I hope you heard what she said. Black and Brown communities have been placed at risk. Language matters and Dr. Blackstock very careful choice of an active verb. It tells us all we need to know. This did not just happen, it was not an accident. These disproportionate deadly outcomes are the result of generations of medical apartheid that continue to place the most vulnerable at risk. 

There’s an old African greeting that’s really a question. How are the children? When I worked in education full time, I had that question taped to the wall above my desk, because I needed the answer to that most simple question to dictate every action I took. 

In truth, the question begs us to consider the most vulnerable, not because they can’t fend for themselves, but because any society can measure its success and its values by how well or how poorly it treats the most vulnerable and most marginalized. How are the children? How are the disabled? How are the elderly, the poor, the people of color? 

This pandemic has been a tragic reminder that none of us are well, or receiving the kind of care and liberation we deserve. 

I know we’re all tired, but we are a community. And only community care will keep us safe and squash this thing once and for all. So, stay cautious. We will not get through this thing unless it’s together.

Brittany Packnett Cunningham That’s it for today, but never for tomorrow. UNDISTRACTED is a production of The Meteor and Pineapple Street Studios. 

Our lead producer is the indomitable Rachel Matlow. It’s been an incredible 50 episodes. We’re grateful for all that you have brought this podcast and this community. Best of luck in your future endeavours – we’re always indebted to you.

Our associate producer is Alexis Moore. 

Thanks also to Treasure Brooks and Hannis Brown. 

Our executive producers at The Meteor are Cindi Leive and myself, and our executive producers at Pineapple are Jenna Weiss-Berman and Max Linsky. 

You can follow me at @MsPackyetti on all social media and our team @TheMeteor. 

Subscribe to UNDISTRACTED and rate and review us on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, or wherever you check out your favorite podcasts. Thanks for listening. Thanks for being, and thanks for doing. I’m Brittany Packnett Cunningham. Let’s go get free.