Sandra Brown never imagined she’d live to see a pandemic like COVID-19.
Brown has worked in health care for decades. She is the dean of the College of Nursing and Allied Health at Southern University and spent more than 30 years in the nursing field as a practitioner, professor and administrator.
Her job title expanded this April, when she was named the co-chair of Gov. John Bel Edwards’ COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force. And as the virus spread like wildfire in Louisiana this spring, an alarming trend arose: African Americans accounted for the majority of the state’s deaths—56% as of May 11. Many deaths were tied to underlying health issues like diabetes, hypertension and obesity.
There are many layers to the health disparities in the state, Brown says. She has made it her career to study local issues such as HIV awareness and risk factors among students at historically black colleges; and racial and gender differences in cardiac care in Louisiana’s public teaching hospitals.
“Out of every crisis comes an opportunity,” she says.
Through the task force, Brown aims to make COVID-19 and antibody tests more accessible by offering mobile testing sites that locals can get to by foot or bike. The task force plans to focus on vulnerable populations in nursing homes, prisons and areas where there are multigenerational homes and people can’t properly quarantine. It will provide recommendations to the governor relative to health inequities in communities most impacted by coronavirus. And it hopes to provide greater access to high-quality medical care and improve overall health outcomes.
“We’re not too proud to learn from others,” she says. “We’re looking at what other states are doing and trying to find solutions, because they’re out there.”
Brown is optimistic about the future of Baton Rouge—and she hopes the community keeps the momentum to improve the state’s health by continuing practices like social distancing and hand washing. gov.louisiana.gov
“If we all continued to do a little, we would accomplish a lot. Our citizens in Louisiana are resilient.
We will pull together.”
This article was originally published in the June 2020 issue of 225 Magazine.