What if we could address inequalities through the power of love?
In the fall of 2020, the healthcare community along with the rest of the world was sounding an alarm about a potential surge in COVID-19 infections driven by people gathering for the holidays and exacerbated by the flu season.
"We at W2O, a part of Real Chemistry, knew that, before communicating about the importance of vaccine confidence, Black health professionals had to ground an intracommunity dialogue in unconditional and unapologetic love for Black people."
For our pro bono client the Black Coalition Against COVID (BCAC), their concerns were more complex and perhaps more urgent: Black people were 37% more likely to die from COVID-19 than white people according to a Washington Post analysis of data from March through mid-October 2020. Plus, centuries of medical apartheid and racism in today’s healthcare industry contributes to the Black community’s distrust of healthcare and government institutions.
We at W2O, a part of Real Chemistry, knew that, before communicating about the importance of vaccine confidence, Black health professionals had to ground an intracommunity dialogue in unconditional and unapologetic love for Black people.
We partnered with BCAC to quickly launch A Love Letter to Black America, from America’s Black Doctors and Nurses right before Thanksgiving to appeal to the community as the country was struggling to balance adhering to public health guidance with a strong desire to commune with loved ones.
Leveraging the power of BCAC’s allied organizations, which now includes more than 40 institutions such as Howard University, Morehouse School of Medicine, the National Urban League, and the National Black Nurses Association, we penned an open letter to the Black community that affirmed that Black Lives Matter and that respect for Black bodies and Black lives must be core values in the efforts to create vaccines that our world will embrace.
In part, the letter reads:
We love you.
We affirm that Black Lives Matter. And as Black health professionals, we have a higher calling to stand for racial justice and to fight for health equity.
In the spirit of unconditional love for every single Black American, we have locked arms in an initiative to place the health and safety of our community at the heart of the national conversation about COVID-19.
Respect for our Black bodies and our Black lives must be a core value for those who are working to find the vaccine for this virus that has already taken so many of our loved ones.
Our colleagues across healthcare know that we are urging our community to take safe and effective vaccines once available. However, for this to be successful, they must do more to earn your trust—now and in the future.
We are on the front lines in care delivery, and in key decision-making roles—from the lab to the clinic to the virtual boardroom. We urge you to hold us accountable. We also ask for your help in continuing to protect the health of our community, especially now that the pandemic is escalating at crisis levels across the country.
The love letter has become an ever-present proof point in the media narrative about COVID-19 and the Black community, which makes the case for cultural competency in healthcare communications.
From NPR Morning Edition, ESSENCE, NBC BLK, BET.com, ESPN and Politics Nation with Al Sharpton to respected leaders such as Jonathan Capehart, Dr. Uche Blackstock, Dr. Michelle McMurray Heath, President of BIO, and Dr. Wayne Frederick, President of Howard University, the love letter is used to explain why Black health professionals need to remain at the center of COVID-19 efforts to save Black lives.
It exemplifies why racial concordance – when a physician and a patient have a shared identity and can improve the perceived quality of care – is critical.
The urgency of this issue requires us to approach each complex piece of this puzzle with powerful, impact-driven creativity, which keeps the community we’re seeking to reach at the center.
There’s a real connection and real chemistry in our work with BCAC. Our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion is actualized by marrying data-driven insights with inherent cultural fluency to make the world a healthier place for all.