Perspectives on Progress: Jordan Powell talks health disparities
IPHCA president discusses disparate impact of COVID-19 on Black and Latino residents
By RAYMON TRONCOSO
Capitol News Illinois
SPRINGFIELD — As the novel coronavirus disease continues to spread throughout the United States, the numbers show Latino and African American communities have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 nationwide.
To Jordan Powell, president of the Illinois Primary Health Care Association, or IPHCA, it’s a natural extension of the inequities that already exist in health care.
“African-Americans and Latinos are more likely to suffer from other underlying conditions as a result of socioeconomic factors and a lack of access to health care,” he said in an interview. “So, when you combine those underlying conditions with a virus in a pandemic like coronavirus, then your outcomes are going to be worse.”
Powell joined Capitol News Illinois in a podcast conversation as part of its “Perspectives on Progress” series, which is a collection of podcasts on race in Illinois.
The IPHCA is a nonprofit trade association representing community health centers throughout Illinois. These health centers serve more than a million residents in the state, many of whom are Black, Latino or have low income.
Powell, who has served as the IPHCA’s president and CEO for two years after racist comments by the previous president led to that individual and the entire executive committee resigning, has a personal connection to the organization’s work.
In a 2018 news release posted to Facebook announcing Powell’s appointment as acting president, the IPHCA quoted Powell on his background as someone impacted by affordable, equitable health care.
“I often see myself in those we serve,” Powell is quoted as saying. “I’ve been in their shoes. My mom is alive today because she had access to quality health care, and it is my job to ensure our members have the necessary resource to provide that same access to everyone we serve.”
The release describes Powell as someone who grew up in a low-income household in Springfield while his mother dealt with both cancer and multiple sclerosis. He credits the quality health care she received as the reason she was able to defeat both illnesses.
Still, in his conversation with Capitol News Illinois, Powell emphasized that access alone isn’t enough to improve outcomes in communities that have historically faced disinvestment.
“It’s not a one-size-fits-all solution. It’s not just invest in health care,” Powell said. “You need to invest in the entire person. It’s housing, it’s jobs, it’s nutrition, it’s the full gamut.”
Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government and distributed to more than 400 newspapers statewide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.