I have long since learned that it is the community that influences people’s choices and behaviors. This article documents this, that the church has incredible influence on people’s decision-making. In light of COVID the world has learned there has to be a way to get black and brown people to be comfortable participating in clinical trials and be comfortable taking the vaccine so we can ALL be safe. The obvious solution is to go to church!

Just my thoughts,

Dyan Bryson

Originally published here 12/16/2020

By Hannah Nelson

– Black churches are trusted messengers for COVID-19 information in their communities according to early results of Mayo research that shows how community health partners can mitigate health disparities.

Black communities are disproportionately affected by COVID-19 with higher infection and mortality rates than the general population, according to US public health officials. In November, the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention reported that Black patients were 1.4 times more likely to become infected with COVID-19 than White patients and 2.8 times more likely to die from it.

These health disparities are related to economic and social inequity and the prevalence of underlying chronic diseases, according to Mayo Clinic experts.

As the number of COVID-19 cases surge across the country, Mayo Clinic researchers are working with Black churches to provide access to culturally relevant, evidence-based COVID-19 information to improve community health outcomes.

The early results of this study were published in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) public health journal, Preventing Chronic Disease.

LaPrincess Brewer, MD, a cardiologist and health disparities researcher, is the first author on the paper. Since 2012, Brewer has led the Mayo Clinic’s FAITH! program (Fostering African-American Improvement in Total Health), an academic-community partnership that addresses health disparities with a focus on cardiovascular disease within Black communities. Over 100 Black churches are active in the program.

“Black churches have long been more than places of worship to their communities,” said Brewer. “They serve as strongholds for disseminating trusted information, including health information, in their communities.”

At the onset of COVID-19, Brewer and her FAITH! partners quickly shifted the focus of their work to the position of Black churches as strongholds of COVID-19 information and preparedness.

The researchers utilized the CDC Crisis and Emergency Risk Communication framework that was previously tested in another Mayo Clinic COVID-19 community-based research study.

The research began with a preliminary emergency resource assessment that identified communities most in need of financial support, food, utilities, and COVID-19 health information.

Nearly all respondents (97 percent) expressed the desire to receive COVID-19 health information via email and social media through their FAITH! Partnership.

The researchers helped participating churches establish COVID-19 emergency preparedness teams and distributed emergency preparedness manuals and American Red Cross emergency preparedness starter kits to each congregation.

Additionally, the researchers trained a pair of communication leaders to deliver culturally relevant, evidence-based messages according to each church’s emergency resource needs. The communication leaders were chosen based on already having established themselves as trustworthy messengers in the community.

Feedback from church and communication leaders on program practicality and acceptability was overwhelmingly positive.

“Because the congregants know that the FAITH project is tailored toward the African American community, one of the things is it’s reliable. It’s believed to be reliable and trustworthy, so that’s the primary thing,” said one of the participating church leaders whose name was redacted in the paper.

The researchers hope that their work can help others to plan and execute effective campaigns and initiatives related to COVID-19 or other crucial health concerns among at-risk population through a community-based approach.

Julie Smithwick, the director for the Center for Community Health Alignment, echoed the importance of a community-based approach to addressing health disparities in an August interview with PatientEngagementHIT.

“Go back to the policies that have put people in certain neighborhoods, like redlining policies and Jim Crow, when African Americans weren’t allowed in certain places,” Smithwick explained. “Those neighborhoods were concretely established and have not really changed a ton over the last few decades. It’s putting people in areas where they have less access to resources, both economic and social.”

To address these health disparities, community engagement is key.

“This requires really going to communities of focus, communities that have been disproportionately affected by inequities, and saying, ‘What can we do together? What are your goals? What are your needs? What are your challenges? What are your strengths? And what can we do to support what you want for your neighborhood?’” Smithwick continued.

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