UVA doctors discuss mitigation strategy for disproportionate COVID-19 impacts

UVA doctors discuss mitigation strategy for disproportionate COVID-19 impacts
Published: Dec. 5, 2021 at 9:25 PM EST
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - Dr. Tracy Downs, UVA’s chief diversity & community engagement officer says COVID-19 is disproportionately impacting people of color.

“We always said race was an individual variable associated with illness or lack of health,” Dr. Downs said.

He says racism, low social economic status, and being uninsured are the true roots of the heightened impact on African Americans.

Dr. Max Luna, director of the Latino Health Initiative, says the issue is also apparent in the Latinx population.

“In the central Virginia area, less than 50% of the Latinx community has access to primary care and people were required to be referred by their primary care physician to get a COVID test,” Dr. Luna said.

He says UVA quickly stepped in to fix this in the early stages of the pandemic.

“UVA made COVID testing early on without need of a physicians referral,” Dr. Luna said.

They both say UVA Health is focused on equity and inclusive practices to encourage vaccine skeptics to roll up their sleeves

“We know that trust has been a challenge in all areas of this country and definitely Charlottesville is in that equation too, so having someone that you trust and often times for African Americans, having someone who comes from a similar background can be helpful in someone making that decision to get vaccinated,” Dr. Downs said.

The representation goes a step further for people who do not speak English. Working around language barriers builds a level of trust with patients.

“We’ve seen that with our physicians of color and nurses of color being somehow able in some way to either speak in less jargon or in a relational way that allows someone to process and come to their own decision,” Dr. Downs said.

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