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NMA Calls for An URGENT, Coordinated Effort to Re-Open Schools

Thursday, July 9, 2020   (0 Comments)
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The COVID-19 pandemic has unmasked racial/ethnic health disparities in African American and other disadvantaged populations. Parents and caregivers must work to financially provide for their families yet have expressed mixed emotions on their children returning to school. The re-opening of schools expeditiously is important to child health; however, ensuring equitable resources that support safe learning environments is equally important.

Inequities in school staffing, funding, and resource allocation were present prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, specifically in economically disadvantaged communities. The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted family dynamics and prompted schools to rapidly adopt remote learning without equitable access to technology, the continuation of essential school meals, or alternative opportunities to support the social and emotional health of children.

After four months into the COVID-19 pandemic and 132,570 deaths, we have learned that this disease is dynamic, and our response must be highly adaptable. It is paramount for schools to implement flexible, timely, and evidence-based infection control policies (physical distancing, hand hygiene, universal masking, etc.). Schools and after-school programs should be equipped to keep everyone safe and healthy by providing consistent communication between the schools and families with health and safety updates.

The NMA is calling for the U.S. Department of Education to URGENTLY develop a coordinated strategy that provides strict guidelines for states and local school districts to safely re-open schools. The strategy should be a blueprint for states to adapt to their needs and outline federal funding to support adaptions. The NMA and other medical organizations should be able to review this plan and comment on its structure. Education and school attendance is a child health priority and must be preserved at all costs. We agree that schools should re-open as soon as possible, with a CLEAR plan that ensures the health and safety for children, their families, and school staff.

The NMA is the largest and oldest national organization representing African American physicians and their patients in the United States. As the collective voice of African American physicians and the leading force for parity and justice in medicine, the NMA is committed to addressing social determinants of health and adverse childhood experiences that disproportionately affect our children and adolescents of color.

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Oliver T. Brooks, MD   Contact: Michael Peery
President, National Medical Association   (312) 217-2260
Jennifer Walton, MD MPH   mlp@lengarmedia.com
Chair, Pediatric Section, National Medical Association    

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