Effort in Black Community to Increase COVID-19 Testing

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COVID-19 numbers continue to paint a dire picture for Black Americans, and there is an ongoing effort in the Black community to increase testing.

Despite representing only 13% of the U.S. population, Black people account for almost 20% of deaths across the country.

“We’re having the worst health outcomes than the other ethnic groups,” said Beatrice Miller, co-chair of African American Health Program Executive Committee (AAHP).

AAHP is running free testing sites in Montgomery County.

“We want Blacks to get tested,” Miller said. “You need to know your status.” 

Using more than $1 million in county funding to pay for personal protective equipment, test kits and medical staff, AAHP has spent months developing a strategy to get more Black people tested.

Coronavirus Cases in DC, Maryland and Virginia

COVID-19 cases by population in D.C. and by county in Maryland and Virginia

Source: DC, MD and VA Health Departments
Credit: Anisa Holmes / NBC Washington

“There was data showing that people were dying, but we didn’t have data on how many testing,” Miller said. “We looked like we were lagging, and once we found the data, we were, we were lagging.”

The reason for the disparity in testing varies.

“A lot of it is misinformation,” Miller said. 

“And sometimes we put our health on the back burner.” 

Kimatni Rawlins – Founder, Fit Fathers Foundation

“Sometimes we don’t really want to know,” said Kimatni Rawlins, founder of Fit Fathers.

Rawlins' strategy is to meet Black people where they are.

“Dating back to Tuskegee experiments, we have been very apprehensive of the medical field, so there’s a lot of mistrust here,” he said. “So, we need to speak with people who look like us, talk like us, move like us.” 

If the lure of a free test isn’t enough, the group also hands out free pandemic swag boxes.

“You get masks; you get gloves,” Rawlins said.

“It’s all about us giving back to you,” he said. “All you have to do is show up.”

In addition to free testing, AAHP also offers mental health services, help with food security and other wellness programs to combat the side effects of the pandemic. Between now and the end of the year, it will pretty much be running a testing site every day.

Find more information on testing sites and other services offered by AAHP here.

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