As President Biden begins ramping up his administration's response to the COVID-19 pandemic, part of its focus will be geared to "protect those most at risk and advance equity."
Tiffany Whitlow, co-founder of Acclinate, said having that as one of the core seven goals of Biden's coronavirus response and the large spotlight on trust feels like an important turning point in tackling the virus.
"I think that that is imperative in order for us to move forward and in order for us to establish trust not only with the government, but with subject matter experts," Whitlow said.
Acclinate has been working to build that trust locally in Alabama among minority and rural communities through its #NowIncluded platform.
Whitlow also highlighted the establishment of a COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force, which will establish practices aimed at medical equity, both now and beyond the pandemic.
"If they're thinking about that entire process here, now that we're fighting COVID-19, they're also thinking about that process for other therapeutics and other drugs and that's exciting to know that Biden is already thinking beyond COVID-19, honestly," Whitlow said.
According to the executive order establishing this group, "The Task Force shall consist of the Secretary of HHS; an individual designated by the Secretary of HHS to Chair the Task Force (COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force Chair); the heads of such other executive departments, agencies, or offices (agencies) as the Chair may invite; and up to 20 members from sectors outside of the Federal Government appointed by the President."
Regarding the timeline of its work, "Unless extended by the President, the Task Force shall terminate within 30 days of accomplishing the objectives set forth in this order, including the delivery of the report and recommendations specified in this section, or 2 years from the date of this order, whichever comes first."
Biden's plan also calls for a mobilization of at least 100,000 people to "conduct culturally-responsive outreach and engagement."
In Alabama, Whitlow said that involves a partnership with the UAB Center for AIDS Research to engage in three largely rural counties in an effort to improve access to COVID-19 testing and knowledge about the vaccines.
A two-year, $5 million award from the National Institutes of Health's Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics (RADx) initiative is making it possible.
The initiative was launched in Franklin, Clarke and Clay counties in October 2020 and will start to yield results on the ground in the near future.
"We think about it as a way to add to the opportunities that the local county health departments have been offering to individuals who still maybe not qualify for the vaccine, but still want to know where they stand," Whitlow said.
For the latest on COVID-19 talks and information with subject matter experts through #NowIncluded, click here.