the Community Leader

By Kelsey Butz
President Rodriguez speaks to a media crew.
President Havidán Rodríguez speaks to the media about UAlbany’s role in deploying a COVID-19 drive-through testing site. (Photo: Paul A. Miller)

Gov. Cuomo charged President Havidán Rodríguez and the University at Albany with leading a team of public health, social welfare, emergency preparedness and other experts to study the environmental, socioeconomic and occupational factors causing Latinx and Black populations in the state to be disproportionately harmed by COVID-19.     
According to July fatality data from the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH), the Latinx and Black populations comprise 51 percent of the population in New York City – yet account for 62 percent of the deaths. Outside of New York City, New York has Latinx and Black populations comprising 21 percent of the population but 31 percent of the deaths.

The team is looking at a number of factors, such as housing and food security; employment opportunities, including an individual’s ability to work remotely; how communities learned and responded to the dangers of COVID-19; and the availability and access to health-insurance coverage and health care. By further analyzing and building upon research that’s already been done on these disparities, the team will engage stakeholders – such as community leaders and COVID-19 survivors – to develop data-driven prevention strategies to help inform New York’s response to this and future public-health threats. 

“The University at Albany is proud to partner in this important research at the direction of Gov. Cuomo and on behalf of all New Yorkers,” said Rodríguez. “As one of the most diverse research institutions in the country, and with our extensive expertise in minority health disparities, public health, social welfare, public policy, criminal justice and emergency preparedness, UAlbany is a powerful partner in this urgently needed research.”

Cuomo speaks at a press conference. Presentation highlights SUNY Albany and Dr. Havidan Rodriguez and partnership with NYS Dept. of Health / Northwell Health

At UAlbany, the work involves the School of Public Health; the College of Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Security and Cybersecurity; the College of Arts and Sciences; the School of Social Welfare; Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy; CTG UAlbany; and the Center for the Elimination of Minority Health Disparities. A preliminary report completed this summer will propose actionable intervention strategies and recommendations aimed at improving health outcomes and saving lives. A more detailed analysis will follow at the end of the year.

The project is another demonstration of the University’s longstanding commitment to address and eliminate racial and ethnic disparities in our communities. Beyond 2020, UAlbany intends to build on its extensive expertise and strong commitment to social and economic justice to expand its health equity research portfolio.

On The Front Lines


the Commissioner

Elizabeth Whalen, MD, MPH ’12


the Contact Tracer

Monroe Marshall ’20


the Collaborator

David Gold ’79, J.D.

Wrinkled hands holding each other

the Caregivers

COVID-19 Through the Eyes of Social Workers