Coronacast Episode 05 – COVID-19 Poses a Threat to Native Americans; The Evolving Role of WHO in Pandemics

By: Rhea Almeida and Luisa Portugal

This podcast series includes NYU policy students that will analyze policy issues and solutions emerging in real-time around the country.

On this episode of Coronacast, Mikeala Sparks walks us through the disproportionate impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Native Americans. The Navajo Nation currently has the highest cases per capita in the US, and she explains how this crisis could be further exacerbated by an under-funded Indian Healthcare Service. Next, Chiamaka P. Ojiako traces the recent history of epidemics and pandemics, and the evolving role of the World Health Organization in crisis management. At the top of the episode, hosts Luisa and Rhea analyze this week’s COVID-19 milestones and the risks of reopening too soon.


0:00: Welcome from hosts Rhea and Luisa

0:38: Top news of the week 

5:14: Mikeala Sparks on COVID-19 Poses a Threat to Native Americans

13:49 Chiamaka P. Ojiako on The evolving role of the World Health Organization in pandemics

Guest Speakers

Mikeala Sparks, MUP ’21, earned a Masters in Urban Planning from NYU Wagner specializing in International Development. She focused the majority of her research on emergencies, disasters and their impacts on traditionally underserved communities. Her greatest passion is connecting with people through language, culture, and a common interest in public space.

Chiamaka P. Ojiako is a lawyer, health equity advocate, and second-year MPA candidate at NYU Wagner specializing in Health Policy and Management. She finds the complex nature of health system issues and the absence of a uniformly adaptable solution or model stimulating. She currently serves as a staff writer for The Wagner Review.


Rhea Almeida is first-year MPA international student at NYU Wagner hailing from Mumbai, India. In the past, she has worked in the fields of policy, advocacy, and development for a women’s working rights group in India. Prior to that, she worked as a TV news journalist in New Delhi. Her areas of interest include workers’ rights, gender equality, grassroot level advocacy and coronavirus response policy. In addition to being contributing editor for The Wagner Review, she serves as senator for the Wagner Student Association, and events chair for the Wagner Policy Alliance. She is also the co-founder of the ‘What’s up with Coronavirus Policy’ discussion group.

Luisa Portugal is a first-year MPA student at NYU Wagner specializing in International Development Management & Policy. She earned an LLM in Constitutional Law and Theory in Brazil. Her main topics of interest are international development, climate change and the coronavirus crisis. Luisa will serve as Co-Chair of Events for the Alliance for Climate Change and Environment (ACE) in the upcoming year. She is also the co-founder of the ‘What’s up with Coronavirus Policy’ discussion group.

News segment:

Resources and information about the Native American population:

Music Credit: Pamgaea by Kevin MacLeod