MDHHS announces Regional Health Equity Advisory Councils to address COVID-19-related disparities


Soraya Marashi


On Aug. 10th, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) announced the creation of 11 Regional Health Equity Advisory Councils. These councils will be “designed to help combat health disparities in underserved and rural areas across the state.”


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The funding for these councils comes from the CDC 21-2103 National Initiative to Address COVID-19 Health Disparities Among Populations at High-Risk and Underserved, Including Racial and Ethnic Minority Populations and Rural Communities.

MDHHS told State of Reform that the councils will work to expand mitigation and prevention resources for the reduction of COVID-19-related disparities, improve data collection and reporting for populations experiencing disproportionate levels of COVID-19, expand infrastructure support for COVID-19 prevention and control, and mobilize partners to advance health equity and address the social determinants of health as they relate to COVID-19 health disparities.

The councils will focus on reducing COVID-19 disparities among African Americans, American Indians and Alaska Natives, Arab and Chaldean Americans, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, and Hispanics and Latinos.

Councils will be established in Genesee, Ingham, Kent, Oakland, Ottawa, Macomb, Muskegon, Saginaw, Washtenaw, and Wayne County, and the City of Detroit.

A Request for Applications was sent to organizations to solicit them to oversee these councils and function as a backbone organization (BBO) to support their formation. BBOs will begin serving their respective regions this month. 

MDHHS said the expected impact of these councils is twofold.

“The first impact is to build on MDHHS’s desire to establish an advisory infrastructure between MDHHS and the community,” the department said. “The second impact is to provide more of the decision-making power within communities and in the hands of those with lived experience to shift the imbalance of power and uplift the direct needs among populations at high-risk and underserved, including racial and ethnic minority populations and rural communities.”

According to MDHHS, the councils will strive to achieve health equity by strengthening the capacity of local communities to develop and implement strategies to combat COVID-19-related disparities among high-risk and underserved populations. The councils will also “… Use data to make informed decisions with an understanding of the community needs and implementing culturally and linguistically appropriate communications.”

MDHHS said it is expecting challenges with the short time the department has to establish each council and begin meeting, the identification and recruitment of members to serve on each council, and building consensus around how to best serve residents.

“This is an important initiative, because it decentralizes decision making away from organizations and institutions and concentrates it at the community level,” the department stated. “Using this type of process can allow for more expansive, inclusive, and far-reaching solutions driven by populations at high-risk and underserved, including racial and ethnic minority populations and rural communities.”

The councils will be fully developed by May 31st, 2023.