ANNAPOLIS, Md. — This Saturday night, musicians, health-care workers, and people who’ve been directly affected by COVID-19 are coming together online to raise awareness and funds for underserved communities hit hardest by the coronavirus.

Joe Ochipinti, CEO of United Healthcare, one of the sponsors of the “Act4Impact” telethon, said the event supports an American Lung Association program that’s addressing a gap in resources for Black and Brown communities.

It also aims to educate folks with underlying health conditions, like obesity and diabetes, that make them more susceptible to the coronavirus.

“The action in this initiative is really addressing disparities in COVID testing, providing masks and access to vaccines in underserved communities,” Ochipinti said. “So, developing critical plans on how to prevent future pandemics and also funding critical research.”

In Maryland, statistics show Blacks makeup 41% of all coronavirus deaths but are only about 29% of the population.

The live stream benefit starts Saturday at 7:00 p.m. and is hosted by Queen Latifah. To participate, search for the hashtag #Act4Impact or the American Lung Association’s Facebook page.

Funds from the telethon will also support lung health research to prevent future respiratory viruses.

To Ochipinti, the cause is not only critical, it’s personal. His grandmother, a long-time smoker, was diagnosed with COPD. And his son, now age 12, was born prematurely with lung problems.

“Because of the research from the American Lung Association, he was able to get a lung procedure in vitro which has allowed him to live a healthy life,” Ochipinti said.

He pointed out the association’s program will also support grants to evaluate the impact of the coronavirus on patients with chronic lung disease.

Diane Bernard, Public News Service

Diane Bernard is a digital and radio journalist based in the metropolitan Washington, D.C. area with more than 10 years of journalism experience. Her print and online credits include work for The Washington...

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