REACH Grantees Response to COVID-19 Disparities

In April, the NRC convened a virtual meeting with 30 people from 19 REACH grantees to discuss the various ways they are addressing the COVID-19 health disparities facing their REACH communities. The COVID-19 pandemic has been relentless in how it affects people, especially African American and Latinx communities. Charmaine Ruddock, Chair of the Board of the NRC facilitated the meeting whose goal was to have REACH grantees share with each other how they were approaching the pandemic in the communities they were serving.

Stan Martin, Project Director with Cicatelli Associates shared with the other grantees the media coverage of COVID-19’s impact on Buffalo’s Black community. One of their partners, Pastor Nicholas from the Lincoln Memorial United Methodist Church, has been speaking on a local Buffalo radio station stressing the importance of how the community can protect themselves from the Coronavirus. Stan also shared how a virtual support group has been created for their breastfeeding initiative, and that he and his team are working on a three point plan to determine what has happened to create these disparities, what is the response right now, and what will be done after the pandemic levels off. Stan was excited to report that $1.125 million will be provided to the African American Health Equity Task Force to boost outreach at inner-city churches and community-based organizations and education to vulnerable individuals on COVID-19-related health issues.

In April, the Eastern Michigan University Center for Health Disparities Innovation and Studies (CHDIS) REACH team distributed 100 care packages to the homeless and to families in need living in the Hamtramck and Detroit area. They partnered with American Indian Services, the Sister Judy Program in Grosse Pointe, and the Genesis III shelter in Detroit. J&E Community Relief provided the space. CHDIS Bangladesh navigator, Mohammad Saiful Islam and his team of volunteers, made this event possible. Alice Jo Rainville said the care packages contained a hygiene kit, masks, hand sanitizer, shampoo, hand soap, body wash, dish soap as well as a variety of nutritious food items including peanut butter, canned spinach, beans and rice, tuna or chicken, and applesauce.

Hannah Hardy and Aja Wilkerson from the Allegheny County Health Department have done two Facebook Live! events.  “What Black Pittsburgh Needs to Know about COVID19,” organized by 1 Hood Media, is providing up to date COVID-19 information for their community. Their partner, the YMCA, is holding diabetes classes online.

Jennifer Kraschnewski, Andrea Murray, William Calo and Madeline Bermudez from the Pennsylvania State University at Hershey Medical Center spoke about their communications strategy during the pandemic and shared images that have been created since there has been a noticeable lack of information in their Latinx community. They have also distributed 1500 flyers in English and Spanish through a food distribution center, grocery stores, and corner stores.

Michele Benko and Nichelle Shaw from the Cuyahoga County District Board of Health spoke about the need to dispel myths some African Americans may have been hearing in their communities about COVID-19. Some of that inaccurate information included that African American communities are immune to the Coronavirus. A concern and which, as current news reveals is not a myth, is the fear many African American males have in being racially profiled by the police when they wear masks or some form of facial covering.

Overall REACH grantees shared the challenges of their community members being able to get tested. In many REACH grantees communities there are only drive up testing facilities with no walk up facilities. Other grantees stated they were seeking guidance on how they could use their REACH funds for other community demands to provide food and medical help to those in need.

Many of the REACH grantees expressed how thankful they were to have this meeting that enabled them to share not only the challenges many of them are facing during this pandemic, but provided ideas on how they can pivot to better serve their communities as well.

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