Census Data Can Help Close Health Access Gap
By Dianne Anderson
Everyone thinks they want to know what COVID-19 symptoms are like, but Yvonne Peeples says if you have it, you know it.
From the beginning, she knew something was wrong. The persistent cough seemed to go away for a while, but come back. She lost her sense of taste and smell, and had a headache almost every day.
Her lupus made matters worse, putting her at greater risk with a compromised immune system, but then came the hallucinations.
These days, she is only now starting to get back to herself.
“I was having body aches, I thought it was the Lupus. There were strange chills and fever, then I had the crazy dreams and I thought, this is something else,” said Peeples, who is the daughter of the late Santa Ana community activist, Harriet Tyler.
Her temperature didn’t get extremely high, but she would wake up drenched and experienced numbness in her hands and feet. A small scratch on her hand kept getting bigger, and the doctors ended up giving her a course of antibiotics to fight that infection.
“I was sick as a dog, it was horrible,” she said. “It was like someone had a whole bunch of knives sticking it my legs. I didn’t sleep for six weeks.”
Her test came back negative, but her doctor told her she had coronavirus and that the COVID-19 testing was not reliable, only about 70% accurate.
“I have friends who think they’ve had it, but they had it before [COVID-19] testing. My friend’s sister was one of the first healthcare workers to pass away in L.A. County,” she said.
Testing access is just one of the many disparities facing Black and Brown communities, as well as access to healthcare and essential services.
Overall, the gap in hardest-hit communities also means a higher death rate for African Americans, who now make up 25% of national deaths related to COVID-19.
Long time health advocate Ernesta Wright has spent decades helping the Black community gain access to health coverage and resources. Recently, she came on board to push census outreach in the community that can help pull down more funding over the next ten years with a complete headcount.
She stresses the importance of filling out the Census to bring more reliable resources to communities that struggle for the most basic services. At the low end of the spectrum, the census may bring $675 billion each year over the next decade, but projections are that it could be up to $1.25 billion in potential dollars.
Putting the right funding from census dollars into the hands of reliable community partners can have a greater impact in serving the community, especially in light of the current pandemic, she said.
“There are many existing community-based and faith-based organizations that already have [outreach] mechanisms in place. They already have proven themselves to be a trusted partner,” said Wright, executive director of the G.R.E.E.N. Foundation.
Over the past two decades, her program has tackled areas of community health education on tobacco, breast, prostate and other forms of cancer. Recently, she held a “Know Your Rights Know Your Benefits” webinar.
She said G.R.E.E.N. Foundation is excited to be involved with the census. She hopes to ensure that future funding comes down to local organizations that are best equipped to provide adequate resources where it is most needed.
“The community has many nonprofits that are also brilliant. Those who have been around for longer than ten years know how to pivot to serve their people,” she said
There is more work to be done, but she emphasized the availability of funding can make a big difference in creating healthier African American and other ethnic communities. She said her foundation uses quantifiable, evidence-based models in their outreach.
“It seems as though when it comes to African Americans overall, and communities of all ethnicities, that we would be able to make the necessary changes and infrastructure where we have those services,” she said.
For more information on the GREEN Foundation, see www.thegreenfoundation.net