Wichita, Kansas As the cases of COVID-19 surpass 11 million in the nation, averaging more than 150,000 per day, and the number of deaths having reached over 245,000, with a projection that this figure could rise to more than 439,000 by March 1, 2021, the nation’s Black communities continue to suffer disproportionately, economically as well as health-wise.
Health disparities have long plagued African Americans, but now, the worldwide pandemic is laying bare the fact that “underlying” health conditions often mean a death sentence for many. And the increasing shortages of hospital space and care are making matters even worse. However, some Black communities are fighting back.
One such community is in Wichita, Kansas where the Wichita/Sedgwick County (KS) African American Council of Elders and Black Alliance are utilizing Sedgwick County funding to conduct an extensive outreach education campaign entitled #FACTSNOTFEAR, designed specifically for the Black community.
With COVID–19 cases and hospitalizations rapidly surging in Sedgwick County, Wichita and across the nation, the African American Council of Elders and Black Alliance worked hard to launch #FACTSNOTFEAR, an outreach and education campaign to inform the community about the necessity to follow the recommended health guidelines to protect their families from contracting the coronavirus, and to encourage individuals to make lifestyle changes to help mitigate the spread of the virus.
“It pains me to see my people exposed to this terrible pandemic. Therefore, it is our goal for the #FACTSNOTFEAR initiative to raise awareness in the African American community through an integrated communications campaign using social media, traditional media, and virtual events to educate everyone about how to reduce COVID-19 risk factors while providing personal preparedness and other information that will ultimately help save lives in Wichita and Sedgwick County,” said Elder Frances Jackson, of the Council of Elders. “I feel that it’s critical to eliminate any confusion or misinformation about how COVID–19 impacts African Americans,” said Elder Jackson.
Kansas has one of the nation’s highest COVID-19 positivity rates at 34 percent and African Americans are already dying at a rate more than 2.5 times of other ethnic groups in the state. Hospitals in Wichita are reaching capacity and more hospitalizations usually translate into more deaths.
In addition to reinforcing the absolute necessity for everyone to wear a mask and practice social distancing, the Council of Elders outreach initiative will also provide data to the community about diabetes and other preexisting conditions that can lead to serious outcomes if a person contracts COVID–19.
“According to the American Diabetes Association, COVID–19 patients with diabetes have much higher rates of serious complications and death than people without diabetes,” said Elder Jackson. “We have an obligation to raise awareness of how diabetes, high blood pressure, and other preexisting conditions that are prevalent in the Black community can cause adverse COVID–19 consequences.”
The Council of Elders was awarded CARES Act funding to assist in strengthening and expanding their COVID–19 outreach efforts and have identified Black and small business owners as vendors. Many local television stations, the Wichita Eagle, Community Voice, and several urban podcasters are also included in the list of vendors who will assist in disseminating important information to African American households in Sedgwick County and Wichita via traditional and social media platforms.