Health News Roundup

Engaging community health workers to build trust and bolster contact tracing efforts, and more in this week’s roundup

Can the state convince people of color to trust contact tracing?
Isabella Zou, The Connecticut Mirror, August 11
According to health equity advocates and community leaders across the state, there are complex, deeply rooted barriers to engaging people of color in COVID-19 contact tracing efforts. One of the ways local groups are attempting to reach their communities is through hiring and engaging community health workers from communities of color. The community health workers will be a bridge between their communities and the contact tracers, working to inform and build trust.

Health care workers of color nearly twice as likely as whites to get COVID-19
Christina Jewett, Kaiser Health News, August 6
Health care workers of color were more likely to care for patients with suspected or confirmed COVID-19, more likely to report using inadequate or reused protective gear, and nearly twice as likely as white colleagues to test positive for the coronavirus, according to a new study. Dr. Andrew Chan, a senior author and an epidemiologist at Massachusetts General Hospital, said the study further highlights the problem of structural racism reflected in the frontline roles and personal protective equipment provided to people of color. “If you think to yourself, ‘Health care workers should be on equal footing in the workplace,’ our study really showed that’s definitely not the case,” said Chan.

U.S. lacks plan for getting vaccine to communities of color devastated by virus
Rachel Roubein, Sarah Owermohle, Politico, August 3
The U.S. is preparing the largest vaccination effort in its history without a plan on how to reach racial and ethnic groups that have not only been devastated by the virus but are often skeptical about government outreach in their communities. For decades, communities of color have been underrepresented in clinical trials, faced greater barriers to getting vaccinated and held a deeper distrust of a health care system that’s often overlooked or even harmed them. But now, the large-scale effort to defeat the virus depends not just on developing a safe and effective vaccine, but ensuring it reaches all corners of America. In the absence of a national strategy, some local groups across the country are beginning to draw up their own plans for engaging hard-to-reach patients in the minority communities where they work.

Racial bias found in formula for distributing COVID-19 hospital aid
Casey Ross, STAT, August 7
The federal government has systematically shortchanged communities with large Black populations in the distribution of billions of dollars in COVID-19 relief aid meant to help hospitals struggling to manage the effects of the pandemic, according to a recent study. The study found that the funding inequities resulted from a formula that allocated funds based on hospital revenue, instead of numbers of COVID-19 cases or other health data. This resulted in more money from the federal CARES Act going to large hospitals that already had the most resources, leaving smaller hospitals with large numbers of Black patients with disproportionately low funding to manage higher numbers of COVID-19 cases.

Racism’s hidden toll
Gus Wezerek, The New York Times, August 11
This interactive article illustrates the disparities in mortality between Black and white Americans, tracing the history and offering context on the current pandemic. Even if Black U.S. residents were immune to the coronavirus, their mortality rate for 2020 would likely exceed that of white people during the pandemic.