Why Bringing COVID Testing to Minority Groups at a Disadvantage is Crucial for NJ

Roberto Muñiz, President and CEO of Parker Health GroupWhen the pandemic hit the Parker community in the spring, we took each day as it came - staying positive that a solution to this national health crisis would eventually come. Now, more than nine months later, though we may be stable, our nation still remains in the tight grip of COVID. Case numbers continue to grow across the country, including here in New Jersey.

At Parker we have found one small way to help the common good and foster healing. We are participating in a new Rutgers University study called "NJ HEROES TOO", which is pulling together a number of health organizations in the region as partners to gain insight into how we can provide more COVID testing and awareness to low income, minority groups that might be at a disadvantage in our community.
Reaching the demographics of Black and Latinos can be difficult, especially if language barriers exist. Research has already shown that these groups tend to be more impacted by COVID. This demographic sometimes has issues with health care accessibility, transportation and language barriers. Some are not U.S. citizens, so there is also a fear that stepping forward for testing could lead them down a different path.
We support Rutgers in wanting to learn what can be done to better help minority groups that are at a disadvantage. One of our greatest resources is our own health care workers, so why not engage them to help us address this problem? I know our employees could play a critical role in helping researchers identify family, friends and neighbors who could benefit from COVID testing. Therefore, test kits are being mailed to those Parker employees who have agreed to participate. They will then share the kits with those who they have identified in their families, friends and in the community. The research will determine if this method is effective in increasing testing rates verses the traditional methods that are being used to increase testing.
Being a member of the health organization design team for this research was a natural fit for Parker, as we have a strong partnership with Rutgers that has stretched generations. I personally, share a deep concern for this population, having grown up in a community that did not have access to many health programs and testing. To me, studies like this will make all the difference in vulnerable populations and hopefully will help slow the infection rate in the areas we serve. 

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