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‘Still pursuing the same dream’: LATIN-19 aims to increase healthcare access for Latinx community during pandemic

<p>A network created by Duke faculty aimed at giving Latinx community members increased healthcare access has gained nationwide recognition.</p>

A network created by Duke faculty aimed at giving Latinx community members increased healthcare access has gained nationwide recognition.

A network created by Duke faculty aimed at giving Latinx community members increased healthcare access has gained nationwide recognition.

Duke faculty convened the Latinx Advocacy Team & Interdisciplinary Network for COVID-19 to identify disparities in care and critical needs for the Latinx community in North Carolina in the summer of 2020.

The LATIN-19 team discovered that Latinx community members were at a higher risk for COVID-19 than much of the rest of the population in North Carolina, Durham and the Triangle area, according to Irene Felsman, assistant clinical professor in the school of nursing and member of the LATIN-19 executive team. 

“We were supporting the Guatemalan and Mexican community in North Carolina when COVID hit, and we’re now working with them doing outreach for health promotion and prevention education for the Latino community,” she said.

Throughout early 2021, improved access to health resources for the Latinx community—notably COVID-19 testing and vaccines—has been the most tangible result of the group’s efforts, wrote Alejandro Peña, journalist, consultant and member of the LATIN-19 executive team wrote in an email. LATIN-19 also co-organized vaccination events with the African American COVID Taskforce Plus, he wrote. 

For Leonor Corsino, associate professor of medicine and member of the LATIN-19 executive team, LATIN-19 reinforced her awareness of the barriers Latinx community members face when entering the healthcare system.

“Our goal is to continue our advocacy work to improve the wellness of our Latina community by improving access to health care in particular primary health care, changing policies and improving Latinx access to education,” she said.

LATIN-19’s role going forward is to maintain the momentum they’ve built in the past year, Corsino said. 

The group continues to meet every single Wednesday and brings together organizations from all over the Triangle and North Carolina, including the North Carolina State Department of Health, Durham Department of Health and Raleigh Department of Health. Corsino hopes LATIN-19 will increase access to health care for the Latino population in North Carolina and give a voice to the Latino community across the United States. 

LATIN-19 was born to minimize the disproportionate impact that COVID-19 has had on the Latinx community, but Peña stressed that its vision and mission have always gone beyond the pandemic.

“We shared life and professional experiences in the path of facilitating access to opportunities to those that have been historically marginalized by the system,” Peña wrote. “LATIN-19 is still pursuing the same dream, with a much better understanding of what we want to achieve and how we will make things happen.”

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