Nonprofit Black Health Addressing Health Care Disparities, Raising Vaccination Rate In Hesitant Communities – CBS New York
NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — In our continuing coverage of Black History Month, we’re focusing on an organization that’s bridging the gap when it comes to disparities in health care.
As CBS2’s Alice Gainer reported, they’ve found a model that works to target multiple health issues at once.
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It starts with a table outside full of health care literature. Those interested in a COVID-19 vaccine are then directed inside Hope City Church.
“The community that we’re in here in East New York, very, very, very, very skeptical of the entire process. We have our own history as African Americans and the things that have been done over time in the name of the government,” said Tyrone Stevenson, the church’s senior pastor.
Count Cindy Knights among those hesitant, until now.
“Didn’t want to take it because of all the chatter you were hearing about it,” Knights said.
To control the messaging and dispel misinformation, the nonprofit Black Health partnered with places people trust, like faith-based organizations, in all five boroughs.
“We have vaccinated about 17,000 people,” Melissa Baker, COO of Black Health.
Baker said they offer even more than the shot.
“The pandemic was giving us an opportunity to be in front of people that may never have been in the space that we were in,” Baker said. “We started surveying community members. What are the challenges you have? Is it housing? Is it employed? Mental health has been a huge challenge.”
The caring environment encourages people to open up.
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At one event, they joined forces with Sun River Health, a federally-qualified health center.
“We have the ability to schedule them in our health centers and connect them with primary care, behavioral health or dentistry, pediatrics,” said Krista Miller, director of public health nursing for Sun River Health.
Various other health screenings are offered on site at some events.
“The biggest thing is blood pressure. We’ve had several come with, like, stroke level blood pressure, and that had they not come and gotten just a blood pressure screening, they probably would’ve had a stroke,” Baker said. “COVID unfortunately highlighted a lot of the challenges that we already knew, that so many communities were struggling with various health disparities, and so COVID only impacted them greater.”
At Hope City Church, where more than a handful of parishioners died of COVID-19, the senior pastor said sometimes it takes multiple conversations.
“Some people would leave angry and the thing that was gratifying to us is that over weeks we’d see some of those people come back and bring family. So it was about not shaming people, just listening to them,” Stevenson said.
Josette Holder wished she had listened sooner about getting the vaccine.
“I wish I did it before,” Holder said.
What began as five or six people showing up to a particular vaccine site when it started last summer, has grown to 35-40 every week it’s held.
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Black Health also offers fresh produce distribution and help with legal immigration issues, among other services. Other vaccines, like flu shots, are offered in addition to COVID testing.