Georgia DPH Appoints Dr. Montgomery Rice as Chair of New COVID-19 Health Equity Council
Atlanta (Feb. 25, 2021) – The Georgia Department of Public Health has appointed Morehouse School of Medicine President and Dean Valerie Montgomery Rice, MD, as chair of the newly-created DPH COVID-19 Health Equity Council. The group will help DPH increase the effectiveness of its public health programs statewide, ensure equity in COVID-19 vaccination distribution and administration, and improve outreach and communication within Georgia communities most affected by COVID-19.
Vaccination awareness and education will be the DPH COVID-19 Health Equity Council’s most immediate focus.
The council will work in close partnership with the 18 public health districts in the state to reach communities of color and our most vulnerable populations with the goal of addressing concerns related to the COVID-19 vaccine.
“The COVID-19 vaccine is safe and its proven to work,” said Kathleen E. Toomey, MD, MPH, commissioner, Georgia Department of Public Health. “We must make sure our most vulnerable populations understand the benefits of the vaccine – for themselves, their families and their communities. The DPH COVID-19 Health Equity Council will inform our efforts and help us reach these individuals with vaccine availability and awareness messages.”
Many of Georgia’s most vulnerable communities have expressed hesitation about receiving the COVID-19 vaccine due to concerns about its safety and efficacy. Research shows nearly half of Black Georgia residents have stated they do not plan to get vaccinated, but 83% of Black Georgians across all age groups would gain more confidence in the vaccine if they knew it worked safely. Additionally, 38% of Hispanic Georgians do not plan to receive the vaccine, and 28% have expressed doubt in its efficacy. However, 34% of the Hispanic male Georgians surveyed indicated that clear messaging about vaccine safety would sway them.
Dr. Montgomery Rice and Morehouse School of Medicine are directly involved in vaccine distribution and have been leading efforts locally, across Georgia, and nationally to overcome vaccine hesitancy. To ease fears and educate the community, MSM is regularly leading or engaging in community town halls and online forums, offering up experts and conducting media interviews, sharing data, and engaging in various public awareness campaigns.
The DPH COVID-19 Health Equity Council members currently include:
- CHAIR: Valerie Montgomery Rice, MD, FACOG, President and Dean, Morehouse School of Medicine, Atlanta
- Dexter Benning, 3rd Vice President, NAACP Georgia, 2nd Vice President Bartow County NAACP, Bartow
- Jackie W. Bryant, President of the Brunswick Chapter of the Links, Inc. Brunswick
- Marion Ross Fedrick, President Albany State University, Albany
- America Gruner, Founder and Director, Coalicion de Lideres Latinos (CLILA), Dalton
- Norma Hernandez, President Northeast Latino Chamber of Commerce, Gainesville
- Annise Mabry, MAEd, PhD, Founder Dr. Annise Mabry Foundation, Oglethorpe
- Karla-Sue Marriott, Professor and Interim-Chair, Chemistry and Forensic Science Department at Savannah State University, Savannah
- Ray McKoy, DO, Family Medicine Doctor, Rome
- Monica Kaufman Pearson, Retired News Anchor, WSB-TV, Atlanta
- Gigi Pedraza, Executive Director, Latino Community Fund, Atlanta
- Bonzo Reddick, D., MPH, FAAFP chair of Community Medicine, the associate dean of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, and a professor of Family Medicine at Mercer University School of Medicine, Savannah
- Greg Shropshire, Executive Board Member, 100 Black Men of Rome-NWGA, Rome
- Belisa M. Urbina, Founder and Executive Director, Ser Familia, Inc., Atlanta
Additional council members will be added in the coming weeks.
Morehouse School of Medicine
Georgia Department of Health