OC initiative provides COVID-19 testing, education to communities hit hard by virus

Orange County's Latino Health Equity Initiative seeks to educate and help neighborhoods hit hard by coronavirus.
ANAHEIM, Calif. (KABC) -- Community health leaders said Monday that the next step toward COVID-19 recovery in Orange County included following the data, not the politics.

Maritza Bermudez said the trust of her family, friends and neighbors in her and the other promotoras, or community workers, for guidance toward prevention and treatment of COVID-19 was critical.

Bermudez was at Magnolia High School Monday, working at one of five testing sites which are part of the Latino Health Equity Initiative.

"Having someone that's from the community, that knows the community, is super crucial because that way we are able to identify with some of the residents that come or that might not want to come in," Bermudez said.

This promotora model is nothing new in Orange County.

For nearly three decades, Latino Health Access (LHA) has strategically placed promotoras in their own neighborhoods.

LHA and the Orange County Health Care Agency are part of the Latino Health Equity Initiative which has more than seven dozen promotoras registering and educating those in the regions of Santa Ana and Anaheim most impacted by the virus.

LHA CEO, Dr. America Bracho, said Monday that the data collected allowed for analysis by zip code which revealed the top five adjusted case rates per 100,000 people are in Santa Ana and Anaheim and were nearly double the county rate.

"The point of the data has to do with everything in Orange County - with housing, with education, with living wages, with everything. So as long as you don't have data that can make visible the inequity, people can go about their life, you know, ignoring that," Dr. Bracho said.

The LHA CEO said the next step was getting resources where they're needed most.

"You budget following the data, not the politics. So we really need for that data to guide decisions and budget allocation," Dr. Bracho said, adding, "the hope is that towards the future, we don't think that recovery is just about opening businesses or even going back to school. That recovery is about bringing equity to our communities. So, probably the question that we need to answer will be, 'As we recover, are we recovering to be ready for the next pandemic, or are we recovering just to benefit few at the expense of the majority?'"

Latino Health Access relies heavily on donations. Dr. Bracho said they're in need of personal protective equipment and funding. Anyone wanting to help them out can call the LHA COVID-19 Call Center at 714-805-7838, available seven days a week 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
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