This fall, New York Institute of Technology College of Osteopathic Medicine (NYITCOM) at Arkansas State University received a CARES Act grant through the Arkansas Minority Health Commission (AMHC) to conduct remote COVID-19 testing operations in the Mississippi Delta, and the first of those events took place Thursday (Nov. 12) in Marianna.
NYITCOM’s Delta Population Health Institute (DPHI), the community outreach arm of the Jonesboro-based medical school, is conducting the testing as part of its Delta Care-A-Van operation. The Care-A-Van will make stops in Delta communities over the next few weeks to provide free tests in areas that are medically underserved. Those interested in participating are not required to make an appointment or provide insurance.
“We’re proud to have the opportunity to provide this service to these communities,” said Brookshield Laurent, D.O., executive director of the DPHI. “The mission of the Delta Care-A-Van is to address health disparities and health inequities in Arkansas and the Delta region, so this testing program is a perfect fit. We believe these efforts will really help identify and address COVID-19 cases in areas where the virus may otherwise go undetected and spread rapidly.”
NYITCOM faculty, staff and students and Arkansas Community Health Workers Association volunteers will conduct the testing at the events. The AMHC and the Arkansas Department of Health are also working with NYITCOM and the DPHI on the operational elements of the events.
Testing sites were chosen based in part by the number of minority populations in those communities. According to recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), non-Hispanic Black people and Hispanic or Latino people are much more likely to contract and spread COVID-19 than non-Hispanic white people, and hospitalization rates are much higher in Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) than non-Hispanic white individuals.
“COVID-19 has disproportionally impacted ethnic minority groups,” Laurent said. “It’s incredibly important that we provide testing opportunities in areas of great need in the Delta.”
NYITCOM and the DPHI are collaborating with local community-based organizations such as food pantries to perform the testing events. Thursday’s testing event was held at Delta Dream Ministries, a Marianna food bank.
“We want it to be as easy and convenient as possible for people to get tested,” Laurent said. “That’s why we’re holding these events at locations that are already serving individuals who may not otherwise have access to testing.”
Next week, the Delta Care-A-Van will conduct four testing events, including Batesville on Nov. 16, Searcy on Nov. 18, Eudora on Nov. 19 and Elaine on Nov. 20. Other future dates will be announced later this month.