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CHS students help underserved communities in Lexington’s East End get facemasks

By Ellee Sidebottom
CHS Contributor

Due to the efforts of one College of Health Sciences class, underrepresented and disadvantaged minorities in Lexington were able to receive masks during the height of the pandemic.

In the fall 2020 semester, Jessi Tran and Casey Walsh were enrolled in CLM 453: Cultural Competence taught by Randa Remer, PhD, LPC. For one of their semester-long projects, they volunteered with a local program that would help them apply the cultural competence course content to everyday life.

Tran and Walsh chose the Health Equity Action Team (HEAT), supported by Brandi White, PhD, MPH, assistant professor in Human Health Sciences (HHS) and Clinical Leadership and Management (CLM) programs, and UK College of Social Work graduate student and graduate research assistant for CHS, Alisia Sullivan, HEAT is a community-based group set up by the residents, specifically African-American women, on the East End of Lexington. HEAT seeks to help this community due to the disparities and social determinants of health they face, such as healthcare access, which has been exacerbated due to COVID-19.

According to an August 2020 article by Stephanie Soucheray, a writer for the Center of Infectious Disease Research and Policy, the infection rate of COVID-19 for Blacks/African Americans is 62 per 100,000 compared to 23 per 100,000 for whites. Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stated in March 2021 that Blacks/African Americans are 2.9 times more likely to be hospitalized COVID-19 than other ethnicities. The residents of the East End are passionate that they should have access to personal protective equipment (PPE) to maintain their physical health.

As a result of COVID-19, HEAT had a call-to-action to collect proper PPE and wellness bags to distribute throughout the East Lexington Community.

Tran and Walsh reached out to many local businesses including UK Community Engagement and UK HealthCare to request donations. UK Community Engagement donated 1,000 masks and UK HealthCare donated 100 masks.

While working with HEAT, Tran and Walsh learned many professional and personal lessons.

“Don’t take things for granted, even for something as basic as a face mask,” said Tran, a senior CLM major from Hebron, Ky.

“This project directly connects the content from CLM 453 to the real-world and because of this, I was able to gain a whole new perspective,” said Walsh, a senior CLM major from Trenton, New Jersey.

Finally, even though Tran and Walsh did not directly pass out the PPE to residents of the East End and solely worked behind-the-scenes, they were still able to see the tremendous impact they were making as a part of HEAT.

The residents of the East End created HEAT and are the ones facilitating projects by addressing the needs in their community and gathering support from people like White and Sullivan.

HEAT has previously set up projects like a local HIV testing clinic, and is currently working on addressing food insecurity by creating a program with food box distribution and nutrition education in the East End community.

“The phenomenal women of the East End are heading this project up and are garnering support from people like me,” Sullivan said. “They are focusing on the issues and disparities that directly affect their community and are making a change.”

If you are interested in donating, volunteering, or attending a HEAT meeting, contact Dr. Brandi White at brandi.white50@uky.edu.

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One Year Later

It’s been a year since COVID-19 first began to change our lives, so here in the College of Health Sciences, we are taking time to celebrate our health and well-being, while also to honor those we’ve lost along the way. 

We are publishing a series of stories that will celebrate our faculty, staff, students and alumni. Never have we been challenged in the ways we were over the past year. We are determined that we will not forget. And we will persevere.

#CHS #UK #GoCATSBeatCOVID

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