By Hamdy Inusah
Throughout the 2020–2021 academic year, we’ve been hosting a “Facing Hard Numbers and Harder Conversations” panel series, addressing various health care disparities. With March marking the anniversary of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States, we thought we would address the physical and mental tolls the virus has taken on one of its most affected populations, the Latinx Community.
In this event recap, we want to share with you a few key quotes and moments from the event. We also encourage you to watch the full discussion on our YouTube channel.
Our first panelist was Keny Murillo Brizuela. Keny was born in Honduras, but has called the Durham area home since he was 9 years old. He is a Golden Doors Scholar who graduated from Furman University in 2018 and worked as a Spanish medical interpreter for six years. He then worked a member of our team at the Center for Global Women’s Health Technologies (GWHT). Keny started medical school at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill last summer.
Keny began by sharing the story of his family’s experience with COVID-19 this past summer (video below). He spoke about the way he was able to advocate for his father, and his concern that others without his background might not be able to do the same. He also shared his concerns about disparities in vaccine distribution, education, and general assistance for the Latinx community during this troubling time.
“The Latinx community makes up about 10% of the population of North Carolina, but accounted for about 46% of the positive COVID cases in North Carolina. In Durham county, the Latinx population is about 15% of the total population, but about 77% of the positive cases were Hispanic people.”
“Hearing the stories of Latinx individuals who showed up to get the vaccine really encouraged me to continue volunteering at vaccine clinics.”
Our second panelist was Dr. Gabriela Livas Stein, a licensed psychologist and Associate Professor of Clinical Psychology at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Dr. Stein’s program of research identifies individual risk and protective processes for Latinx and other minoritized youth when facing cultural stressors (e.g., discrimination, acculturative stress), and seeks to improve mental health treatment access for Latinx families. Her research has been funded by NIDA, NIMH, and PCORI. She is currently the Vice President of Programming for the Society of Research on Adolescence. Clinically, she specializes in the provision of therapeutic services to Latinx families, and provides training to providers working with Latinx communities.
Dr. Stein spoke about the mental health outcomes she and her team have observed in the Latinx Community over the past year, her personal experience losing a family member in Mexico to COVID-19, and the difficulty obtaining mental health help she’s observed within the Latinx community.
“When we started working on our study [about mental health in the Latinx community] there was a 30% eligibility rate; that means that folks had significant symptoms of anxiety and depression and had no current mental health treatment. Now we’re at 50%.”
“A lot of my work has focused on familism — the duty and loyalty and honor we have in Latinx families. Typically these values promote better mental health … but because our networks have been shattered by the pandemic, the very thing that is usually a protector factor is what makes these times very challenging.”
After the speakers presented, we moved into a live Q&A and shared some additional resources for continued learning (pictured). Our panelists and several attendees shared resources during the event, which have now been added to this slide.
We are thankful to our panelists and everyone that attended the panel live or has watched it on YouTube! Make sure you follow GWHT on social media or subscribe to our newsletter to stay in-the-know about upcoming events.