White House Appointees Join HSC for COVID-19 and Equity Discussion

June 09, 2021

Photo: Dr. Bechara Choucair during HSC’s first Change for Good Forum. Watch on YouTube.


As the first school year during a modern global pandemic comes to an end, we are just beginning to understand the longer-term impact on children’s physical, emotional and mental health. Many children’s families, especially those in underserved Black, Latinx, Indigenous and immigrant communities, are dealing with ongoing trauma associated with COVID, the economy and racial injustice.

Over the past year, as many as 43,000 children have lost at least one parent during the pandemic. The loss has disproportionately affected Black children, who comprise only 14 percent of U.S. children but who account for 20 percent of those who’ve lost a parent to COVID-19.

Mayra Alvarez, president of The Children’s Partnership and a member of the national COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force, and Dr. Bechara Choucair, White House COVID-19 vaccinations coordinator, discussed these disparities during Healthy School Campaign’s forum on Equity in COVID-19 Health and Education Policy.

Both guests spoke to how equity can drive decision-making at federal and state levels, including the role schools can play in boosting vaccination rates for children and families and in providing broader support to address community upheaval.

“As we recover, we want to make sure we’re recovering in an equitable way,” said Choucair.

The White House recently announced that at least $500 million will be used to hire school nurses, on top of the resources that schools can draw from in the American Rescue Plan’s Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund.

Alvarez focused her remarks on strengthening our collective response to COVID and centering the needs of the most marginalized children. This moment, she said, can be used as an opportunity to disrupt the systems that have shaped longstanding inequities.

“We cannot do right by all children in this country until we do right by children of color,” Alvarez said.

The event marked the first of HSC’s 2021 Change for Food Forums, a series of virtual events that bring together policymakers and leaders from the health, education, environmental, civic and grassroots communities to discuss how to ensure the health and success of all students.

We invite you to view or listen to their remarks and their responses to questions about COVID and schools and the long road to recovery for students, especially those in underserved communities.

HSC’s next Change for Good forum will focus on school infrastructure. Sign up for our newsletter for more information and an invite.

The Change for Good Forums are part of HSC’s ambitious call to further integrate health and equity into national education policy and practice. This includes providing students with supportive learning conditions, with a focus on expanding access to health services; increasing access to nutritious school meals; and investing in healthy and climate-resilient school campuses.