April  2020

Note from the Director

Sheltering at home on St. Patrick's Day

Dear Friends of the François-Xavier Bagnoud Center for Health and Human Rights at Harvard University,
I hope this newsletter finds you and your loved ones safe, sane, and healthy. I hope you are able to stay at home. For those who are part of the heroic response to this pandemic-whether you be health care worker or grocery store clerk-we thank you. I know that many of you have experienced loss and that we will continue to experience grave losses. I wanted to reassure you that although some at the FXB Center have fallen ill, they have recovered and thus far, all of us are healthy.
As you will see below, we are working hard to bring a human rights and equity lens to the response to the coronavirus. As we wrote on March 2, "The United States has many open wounds rooted in decades of racist policies and the criminalization of poverty. The coronavirus is likely to reveal deep failures and reinforce existing health inequities." We are leveraging our base of knowledge of homeless populations, the toll of mass incarceration,  the despair of migrants and refugees, and global health to address the injustices exacerbated by this pandemic. 
Dr. Mary T. Bassett
Covid-19 Advocacy and Research
The Coronavirus Could Hit the U.S. Harder than Other Wealthy Countries, Op-ed, Washington Post March 2 

By Mary T. Bassett and Natalia Linos 
"Epidemics emerge along the fissures of our society, reflecting not only the biology of the infectious agent, but patterns of marginalization, exclusion and discrimination."  
Read more here.
Officials, Stop a Coronavirus Disaster: Release People from Prison, Op-ed, New York Times, March 30 
The FXB Center's Mary T. Bassett, Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez, and Ford Foundation President Darren Walker penned an op-ed addressed to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, calling on him to release people from prison to protect both people currently incarcerated and the staff who work in these facilities. They addressed it to Governor Cuomo,  but as Dr. Bassett later wrote."every federal, state, and local official who has the power to reduce the number of people in prison should do so NOW." Read more here.   
Dr. Bassett joined an amicus brief with 13 other public health experts in support of an emergency petition to the MA Supreme Judicial Court to limit the spread of COVID-19 by reducing the number of people incarcerated. The court provided for some individual relief for those in pretrial detention. Another case for which Dr. Bassett participated in an amicus brief ended in release for the 61-year-old man with preexisting conditions. Dr. Bassett also organized a letter to MA Governor Charlie Baker from more than 70 faculty members at the T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Harvard Medical School asking him to act expeditiously to stop COVID-19 in MA correctional facilities.  The FXB Center's Drs. Satchit Balsari, Jennifer Leaning, and Professor Jacqueline Bhabha signed. Read the letter.
Anti-Roma Racism is Spiraling During COVID-19 Pandemic, Health and Human Rights Journal April 7

By Margareta Matache and Jacqueline Bhabha
"Discriminating against Romani people,
already marginalized and forced to live and work in toxic and overcrowded conditions, is a grave human rights violation that threatens the public health of all members of the community, Roma and non Roma." Read more here.   
Dr. Matache, the director of the FXB Center's
Roma Program, also wrote an op-ed for the Romanian newspaper Libertatea (in Romanian) on anti-Roma racism.     

Dr. Mary T. Bassett, the FXB Center's executive director Dr. Natalia Linos, and the FXB Center's director of communications Veronica Lewin have joined the recently formed COVID-19 Health Justice Advisory Committee of the U.S.-based Poor People's Campaign (PPC): A National Call for Moral Revival.  As Dr. Bassett said, the PPC "is closely aligned with our center's efforts to promote equity and dignity for those oppressed by poverty, racism, and stigma." Read more here.  The Health Justice Committee testified in U.S. Congressional hearings in mid-April.
U.S. county-level characteristics and data visualization tool to inform equitable COVID-19 response   
Researchers from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, its Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics, and the FXB Center (including Dr. Satchit Balsari) examined a range of factors that influence the risk of COVID-19 infection, severity of the disease, extent of the outbreak, and/or mortality in all counties in the United States. They also created a data visualization tool to help officials explore a range of biological, demographic and socioeconomic factors that may heighten the vulnerability of their communities. Read more here.
Upholding Non-Discrimination Principles in the Covid-19 Outbreak, Carr Center for Human Rights Policy Covid-19 Discussion Paper Series, April
By Jacqueline Bhabha, Laura Cordisco-Tsai, Teresa Hodge, and Laurin Leonard
" Non-discrimination principles require policy makers and public officials to concentrate on particularly vulnerable sections of the community rather than leaving it purely to individuals or to the market to come up with solutions."  Read more here. 

What can we learn from COVID-19? A parallel between public health and atrocity prevention, GAAMAC, April
Mô Bleeker, Special Envoy, Swiss Department of Foreign Affairs and Chair of Global Action Against Mass Atrocity Crimes (GAAMAC), interviewed the FXB Center's Dr. Jennifer Leaning, Professor of the Practice of Health and Human Rights about issues common to COVID-19 and atrocity prevention for GAAMAC's Prevention Talks Series.  Watch here.
The Fierce Urgency Of Now: Closing Glaring Gaps In US Surveillance Data On COVID-19, Health Affairs, April 14
By Nancy Krieger, Gregg Gonsalves, Mary T. Bassett, William Hanage, Harlan M. Krumholz  
"Where are the data on COVID-19 to understand who in the U.S. population is being tested, who is ill, and who is dying?... The time is now for the COVID-19 public health surveillance system to record and publicly share the critical data needed to protect the people's health and prevent health inequities." Read more here.

 Other Spring 2020 Highlights
Like so many others, we had to cancel or postpone important events and have transitioned to virtual events. Our first webinar was on equity for people experiencing homelessness during COVID-19 (excellent slides are available at the event's web page). Since we had to postpone our planned International Roma Day event, we hosted a Facebook Watch Party, screening some videos from past conferences with Dr. Matache commenting in the chat.

We miss our doctoral student cohort and our fellows, some of whom had to cut their visit short--we wish we had been able to say goodbye face to face. The theme for our last in-person event, cosponsored with Women, Gender, and Health for International's Women's Day was radical solidarity--useful to remember in these times.

More FXB Center Writing
Preorder now, due out July 2020 from Cambridge University Press, Jacqueline Bhabha, Wenona Giles, Faraaz Mahomed, editors, A Better Future: The Role of Higher Education for Displaced and Marginalised People , with chapters by Margareta Matache, Elizabeth Donger, Orla Kelly. Use code ABF2020 for a 20% discount when ordering directly from the press.  
Selected FXB Center in the Media  
Social Solidarity 
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Join Us in Lifting Up #HumanePolicy
During the pandemic, the world has seen Iran and Indonesia freeing thousands of prisoners, California housing homeless in hotels, Portugal treating migrants as residents, the U.S. loosening its restrictions on medical treatment for drug abuse, Paris renting hotel rooms for victims of domestic violence. Join us in highlighting practices and policies helpful to vulnerable people who suffer disproportionate harm in the epidemic by using the hashtag #humanepolicy or #policyforgood. You can amplify our social media posts or post other examples of positive policies in the time of COVID-19 yourself with those hashtags.

FXB Fellows, Former Affiliates
This is a global pandemic and so many of you are in the midst of it. Tell us your stories of this time, let us know how you are doing. We are thinking of you. Email us at fxbcenter_info@hsph.harvard.edu.

Let's Stay In Touch!