This Saturday, July 18, a special drive-through outreach event in La Porte will provide Hispanic community members with COVID-19 related educational information in Spanish and protective supplies.
After learning that Hispanics and Latinos test positive for COVID-19 at disproportionate rates in every state, including Indiana, the Healthcare Foundation of La Porte (HFL) invited members of the community to form a Hispanic Advisory Committee. The purpose of the committee is to strengthen the community's response to the COVID-19 pandemic and empower residents of La Porte county to live healthy and well.
As part of their action plan, the committee is hosting Unidos Nos Protegemos Contra el COVID-19 (Together, We Protect Ourselves from COVID-19), a free drive-through outreach event on Saturday, July 18, from 9-11 a.m. at St. Joseph Catholic Church, 109 C. Street, La Porte. Please enter the parking lot from B Street.
The Healthcare Foundation of La Porte will be providing a bag that includes masks, hand sanitizer, wipes, and printed educational materials in Spanish. While testing will not be provided at that specific site, Maria Fruth, President and CEO of the Healthcare Foundation of La Porte, said the bag will include information about La Porte’s free, confidential testing site that is open at the Civic Auditorium in the lower level.
“Our goal is to break down the barriers that would keep anyone in the community, and in this particular case our Hispanic and Latino community members, from being well-educated, and well-supported when it comes to their health during a global pandemic,” Fruth said. “Whether the barrier involves language, fear, economic disparity, or community members are simply unaware of the support services out there, we are creating a multi-faceted action plan to help in collaboration with several community partners.”
Members of the community’s Hispanic Advisory Committee are Jessica Aguilar; Mario Rosa; Javier Miramontes; Victor Toledo of Morelia Super Market; Brenda Chavez and Dr. Monica Ovalle of Lincolnway Family Care; Jessica Bruder of the City of La Porte; Director Larry Butcher of the La Porte County Emergency Management; Fr. Nate Edquist of La Porte Catholic Churches; Dr. Gary Wheeland, HFL Board Member and retired physician; Jim Laughlin, HFL Board Member; Jessica Mace, Maria Fruth and Jen Kvasnicka, HFL Staff.
In their research, HFL determined that 8.5 percent of La Porte County’s population identifies as Hispanic, as does 7.25 percent of La Porte City’s population. At the time the data were pulled last month for their first committee meeting, in the state of Indiana, 11.7 percent of those testing positive in the state for COVID-19 identified as Hispanic or Latino.
“We know that Latinos are over-represented in essential jobs, which increases their exposure to the virus,” Fruth said. “Combine that with other factors, like a strong work ethic, or having to make the choice to miss work or provide food for your family, individuals likely will choose to go to work even if they know they are at risk or putting others at risk. So our task is much broader, and needs to also encompass issues like food insecurity while we work on educating about masking, social distancing, washing hands, and getting tested.”
Other studies found that regardless of their occupation, high rates of poverty and low wages mean that many Latinos feel compelled to leave home to seek work. Dense, multi-generational housing conditions make it easier for the virus to spread as well.
Because the issue is complex and involves so many of those socio-economic factors, the Hispanic Advisory Committee knows they aren’t going to break down barriers overnight. But Fruth said the hope is to build trust and educate first.
When developing their action plan, the committee contacted the South Bend Latin American Chamber of Commerce, who shared some of their best practices they have developed in building trust and sharing information with the Hispanic and Latino populations in and around South Bend, Indiana.
The upcoming Unidos Nos Protegemos Contra el COVID-19 outreach event is a result of that.
“This is free, safe, and helpful information with no strings attached, for Hispanic members of the community,” Fruth said.
HFL is also educating the entire community on the free, confidential testing available to all Indiana residents at the La Porte Civic Auditorium, including the Hispanic community.
“When basic needs are not met, the risk for contracting, spreading, and even dying from the virus increases,” Fruth said. “The more we can do to help all of those in our community understand how to take proper precautions and protect themselves and each other, the better.”