It is a known fact that the Black community in Los Angeles County has one of the highest case rates of COVID-19, yet one of the lowest vaccination rates. It is believed that these disparities exist partly because of decades of systemic inequalities.
What may not be as well known is the fact that as of this month, the County Department of Public Health (DPH) has worked with community-based organizations and faith-based organizations to conduct 385,552 outreach activities and reach more than 2.5 million people in the Black community.
“We’re here,” said Renett Clough of the Los Angeles Brotherhood Crusade. “We’re boots on the ground and doing the work. Sometimes it’s quiet work.”
The network has been working to address the impact of the pandemic through testing, community engagement, contact tracing, worker protections, data collection and analysis, vaccination, communication, and linkages to social services.
Clough serves as the COVID-19 Community Health Outreach Program Manager with the Brotherhood Crusade, which hired a complete team to focus on COVID-19 and has so far provided outreach and education for approximately 17,000 people.
With this pandemic, it’s a long haul,” she said during Monday’s zoom meeting titled “A Candid Conversation, About Us, For Us.”
“It’s important for us to work together and to show up,” Clough added.
DPH has partnered with 426 organizations and coordinated 958 vaccine clinics throughout Los Angeles County, resulting in 57,000 community residents being vaccinated via this program. The meeting speakers agreed that innovations are needed to reach the holdouts—persons who do not believe in the crisis or the cures for the pandemic.
“Grassroots efforts work to meet folks where they are—whether at health food stores, at the laundromat—to provide that education,” Clough said, noting that myth-busting is a priority. “We have to take this seriously, we have to explain to people, no matter what you’ve heard, these are the facts.”
Dr. Muntu Davis, DPH county health officer, said that his office website, http://ph.lacounty.gov/, is one place readers can go to fact check and verify testing sites. He said the sites listed there are vetted and legitimate.
“We know they’re doing what they need to do,” he said, adding that the department of consumer affairs will investigate sites which are fraudulent.
“We can close the gaps we’ve been seeing, but it takes all of us to do our part,” Davis said.
Davis and the other speakers noted that outreach is an important tactic to use in the community, but the use of social media is vital, in that the younger generation are among the hold outs and many have listened to the myths and misinformation posted online.
“Young adults are hesitant—they don’t believe it (vaccination) is actually safe—there’s a lot of misinformation from online social media platforms,” said Maria Kemp, chief of staff at TRAP Medicine, whose mission is to shift the praxis, narrative, and culture of health by rebuilding trust in the healthcare system, conducting and promoting research aimed to reduce disparities, and addressing barriers to access.
The organization has, to date, conducted over 700 covid tests. Their theory of change prioritizes Trust, Research, Access, and Prevention (“TRAP”).
“Trust is, of course, by far the most difficult to manage,” Kemp said. “This is all about perception. It’s a big factor as to why we have these stats.”
Trap works from Slauson Avenue south to the Compton area. It also works with the Minority Aids Project.
“On the ground level, we can make change tomorrow,” Kemp said. “I know we want to change the world, but at ground level, we can start with one person.”