Los Angeles community groups hold Covid-focused virtual health fair
LOS ANGELES — As communities of color continue to be disproportionately affected by the coronavirus pandemic, two groups in Los Angeles teamed up to bring a two-day virtual health fair to provide health education and resources for those communities.
Pilipinos for Community Health at UCLA and West Angeles Community Development Corporation, partnered to bring “CommUNITY Health Fair: Bridging Communities Through Health Advocacy” on Saturday and Sunday.
The fair consisted of about a dozen workshops that touched on a spectrum of health topics, including promoting Filipino family wellness during Covid-19, cancer prevention, health equity for queer youth, heart disease in women of color and minority women’s health. It also featured sessions that asked participants to move their bodies through Pilates and chair yoga, and a workshop on how to cook an easy vegan meal.
Melanie Sabado-Liwag, a professor of public health at California State University, Los Angeles, who gave the keynote address during the fair on Saturday, encouraged attendees to think about the meaning of community and how it reflects identity.
“One of the biggest thing that 2020 did bring for us is a sense of identity across color lines,” she said. “I think that’s one of the biggest things that 2020 did, was trying to help us advocate for other people, and to bring into light various things that we take for granted.”
Sabado-Liwag also devoted time discussing the social determinants of health, how inequality is complicated by racism and how racism is viewed by those in public health as a health crisis. She said that while racism is often linked to instances when individuals experience discrimination, it is institutionalized – something the country was reminded of with widespread protests against police brutality last year.
She added that there’s also the phenomena of internalized racism. It’s a form of racism linked to cultural and generational thought processes of whether or not people are good enough or deserve to acceptance because of their race, Sabado-Liwag said.
Dr. Joyce Javier, pediatrician and researcher at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and associate professor of clinical pediatrics at Keck School of Medicine of USC, highlighted the impact of the pandemic on the Filipino American community. She cited that while Filipinos account for about 4 percent of registered nurses in the country, they constitute about 32 percent of registered nurse Covid-19 deaths.
Javier also spent time discussing how the pandemic has affected children’s mental health, an issue that has received less attention compared to the impact of the pandemic on adults.
She also shared about a program called The Incredible Years, which has helped families through free workshops, including Filipino families address the stigmatized issue of mental health. She said the idea of perfectionism is a large contributor to suicide in Asian cultures, and that it is the leading cause of deaths among Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders between the ages of 10 and 24.
The Incredible Years promotes family unity, which can help prevent suicide, she said.
During a workshop about chronic care management in seniors of color, Dr. Brownell Payne talked about chronic conditions and touched on why those with pre-existing conditions are more prone to severe Covid-19 symptoms and death from the condition: many pre-existing conditions, such as diabetes and heart disease, are linked to inflammation and keep the immune system preoccupied. When people with comorbidities become infected with the coronavirus, their immune system doesn’t have the capacity to properly fight it off, he said.