Where Are We Now? highlights the personal and professional perspectives of Rutgers Global Health Institute students and faculty as they continue to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic.
Social injustices, amplified: “The pandemic has certainly intensified health inequities in a vulnerable community like New Brunswick. It exposes injustices that people of color experience all the time, only now it’s ramped up even more,” says Karen D’Alonzo, an associate professor in the School of Nursing who regularly interacts with the city’s Latino community members for health-related research and training programs.
“But it’s not just COVID. The combined effects of the pandemic and a background of social unrest have left many communities of color very disillusioned with and suspicious about the scientific process. Some of that is being fed by some people in our government, as well. Those dynamics affect our ability to do community engagement work. It’s not always easy.”
A matter of perspective: Medical mistrust is another area that Senteio is concerned about lately, and he says that it is likely contributing to the disproportionate impact COVID-19 is having on people of color. “The very construct of medical mistrust blames the participants,” he says. “Why is medical mistrust taken from the position that you, the patients, should trust us, the institutions? I think it should be flipped. What are we still not doing, as institutions, to earn your trust?”
He believes that medical mistrust will be a significant barrier once a vaccine becomes available. “What the pandemic and the George Floyd murder have brought to me is an ability to speak more clearly, personally and in a research context, to the issues that I’ve dealt with all my life as a person of color. Structural inequity, structural racism—COVID brought those things to kitchen table conversations.”
Continue reading: When Global Meets Local