The pandemic has caused many Americans to face unprecedented challenges in their everyday lives. These challenges—which range from loss of income, problems accessing critical social safety nets, and hurdles in getting medical care—were severe and unexpected. The resulting economic insecurity made it harder for individuals to pay for housing, healthcare treatment, medicine, and household expenses. To add to these financial challenges, the pandemic resulted in increased mental and emotional health pressures as well.
Worst of all, due largely to historical, systemic health and socioeconomic inequities, communities of color and poor communities were those most likely to experience these challenges – on top of greater rates of COVID-19 infection and death.
Recognizing the disproportionate risk and impact on communities of color from the COVID-19 pandemic, Healthcare Ready, with support from the Walmart Foundation, launched a project called The Impact of COVID on Communities of Color (IC3). This project aims to shed light on the concerns and needs of communities in greatest need in order to address disparities in the response (and outcomes) of the pandemic.
The Impact of COVID on Communities of Color (IC3) Project sheds light on the greatest needs of America’s most vulnerable communities to both reduce disparities in response and improve outcomes of the pandemic
We partnered with researchers from the University of Maryland and the University of Southern Alabama to use three linked research strategies that allowed us to identify America’s most vulnerable communities and see how they are faring during the pandemic:
Mapping Communities of Focus
We mapped communities that, relative to the US population, are more vulnerable to negative impacts from COVID-19 and other disasters as well as those that had been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 (as of October 2020). We found:
At the start of the project, we set out to determine geographic areas on which to center outreach with the aim of generating deeper, location-specific insights for those areas.
To identify these areas, we created an index-based methodology to illuminate areas of the country that were relatively more vulnerable to negative impacts from disasters and had been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. The index was calculated for all US counties using an index of three measures: CDC’s Social Vulnerability Index (SVI), A Composite Health and Healthcare Index, and COVID-19 data from the JHU COVID-19 Dashboard. The index was then filtered for counties with a majority nonwhite population. Using this filtered calculation, we chose to focus on East Baton Rouge County, Louisiana, and Hidalgo County, Texas for further outreach.
We polled the nation throughout the pandemic to see what challenges US residents have faced as well as what they expect to face in the future.
We developed a reoccurring set of polls at a representative level of the nation and 15 different states.
The polls were designed to highlight the challenges faced by respondents through the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as to understand how these challenges were handled by individuals, if they sought assistance, if they were successful in receiving assistance, and if the respondents believed these issues would persist. We also asked respondents what barriers they faced that stopped them from getting help during the pandemic.
Demographic breakdowns of all poll results were also collected. Demographics included Race, Income, Gender, and Education.
For a detailed methodology of our polling approach and a full list our poll questions and answers, click here.
We interviewed 30 community leaders in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Hidalgo County, Texas – which we chose by mapping communities that were, relative to other areas of the country, more vulnerable to negative impacts of COVID-19 and other disasters — to understand what these communities need for COVID-19 response and recovery. The most prevalent needs that these community interviews raised were:
Community based organizations (CBOs) also identified areas of need that should be addressed in order to better serve their mission and help their communities recover from the pandemic. These areas included the need for increased, sustainable funding (specifically, unrestricted funds) and enhanced partnerships as critical organizational needsin recovery from COVID-19.
We conducted interviews with representatives from 30 community-based organizations (CBOs) in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and Hidalgo County, Texas. In addition to being highly ranked in the index developed in the mapping portion of the project, these areas were selected due to their high exposure to natural hazards, such as hurricanes and flooding.
In total, 17 and 13 CBOs responded to interview requests from Baton Rouge and Hidalgo, respectively, that provide services, such as: Healthcare (including direct treatment and transport and financial support) for low-income populations, housing support, and food relief. These organizations were identified through a basic Google search of CBOs in the area and through recommendations from the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters (NVOAD).
To learn more about who we interviewed the community and organizational needs surfaced from these conversations, click here.