The spread of COVID-19 simmers away in the forefront of our lives these days. In fact most days, it boils more than simmers. The U.S. continues to experience a rising number of COVID 19 cases each day. A disproportionate number of the U.S. deaths from Coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) is occurring among Black, Latinx and Indigenous populations. This tragic disparity is fueled by structural discrimination – years and years of longstanding inequalities which have now been brought into sharper focus by COVID-19. In the midst of this outbreak, we are all reeling from witnessing the murder of unarmed Black men at the hands of police officers. George Floyd’s appalling murder, in particular, propelled the longstanding issue of police violence into the forefront and imprinted the gruesome images onto our collective minds. We have been confronted by the understanding that these events are being fueled by structural Racism. This reality is not an accident. It is embedded in our collective history and our policies. We can no longer ignore these very real and sobering facts.
Public Health Nurses must raise our voices -steady and strong – in protest against Racism which negatively affects the lives of so many of our citizens in unacceptably common ways. Now is the time when PHN voices can best be heard railing on injustices and advocating for social change. The inequality which is consolidated within our world makes it appear to be immovable – but only if we choose to do nothing.
We need to actively advocate for and take advantage of all opportunities to function at the top of our skill sets and abilities. Let’s recognize and act on the trust that is imbued within our profession. Trust is power, if we make use of it. We need the voices of all who can and will speak out and protest – unencumbered, fearless – about our need for more public health nurses, greater public health funding, improved resources, and policy changes. Retired and retiring public health nurses can be great resources in this movement to voice the negative impact of years of underfunding on our ability to adequately address the public health needs of our society. This is even more incumbent on us now during the twin Pandemics currently at hand- COVID-19 and Racism. Inequality and Racism must be called out for what they are and addressed as Public Health issues. Who better to lead this movement than Public Health Nurses?
Silence is no longer an option.
Zenobia Harris, DNP, MPH, CPH
RWJ Interdisciplinary Research Leader Alumnus
Executive Director – Arkansas Birthing Project, Little Rock, AR 72201
Susan V. Coleman MPH, BSN, RN
Faculty, Department of Professional Nursing Practice
School of Nursing and Health Studies (NHS)
Director for NHS, Health Justice Alliance
Georgetown University Washington, DC 20057