Health experts try to bridge information divide as Covid numbers climb in Latinx community

Published: Jul. 14, 2020 at 8:46 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - As the Covid-19 pandemic stretches on we’ve seen higher death rates in minority communities. A leading epidemiologist and a New Orleans Medical leader both way in on the pandemic’s toll on the Latinx community.

As new Covid-19 cases surge again the medical community is trying to reach everyone.

Dr. Alex Ortega is an epidemiologist and public services researcher headquartered at Drexel University. He said, "Some of those messages aren't being delivered in appropriate languages like Spanish or culturally targeted to certain communities."

According to Ortega, “Especially for undocumented and immigrant populations many of them are unaware of what local public health departments and other organizations provide.”

Dr. Juan Gershanik is the president of the Orleans Parish Medical Society. He said, "When you look into the testing sites they have found a good number of Latinos, Hispanics that come to be tested turn out to be positive in the order of 3 to 5 times the ratio of some of the other groups."

Gershanik says the New Orleans Hispanic task force is working hard to get out information that wasn’t making it to the community initially. He said, “They are having a combined program to really emphasize delivering the message to the Latino community. Trying to really tackle directly some of the specific problems that we see in our community.”

A coalition of organizations like the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and Catholic Charities are working together. Beyond language barriers in information other hurdles driving Covid numbers are access to regular health care and cultural practices.

Gershanik sites the Latinx’s community tendency to have large households. He said, “High density when speaking about their housing situation and the other problem is multigenerational. It’s not unusual to see grandparents, parents and the children sharing the same household.”

Both doctors say prevention is the key both when it comes to contracting Covid and surviving it. Ortega explains, “What we hear is that people who have chronic illness are much more likely to have complications, but what we are not hearing about is investment in chronic disease prevention if they’re managed they’re less likely to have severe consequences.”

The doctors also stressed Latinx workers are more likely to work in frontline environments and less likely to be able to shelter at home making it more important to make sure prevention efforts like proper mask wearing and physical distancing is being communicated to all communities.

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