Featured Research: "Black & Essential: Characteristics and Coping Strategies of Black Communities Amid COVID-19" 

The LSU's Reilly Center for Media & Public Affairs with the support of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana (BCBSLA) Foundation worked on research that underscores digital tools, cultural representation among medical professionals, proximity to medical facilities as strategies to mitigate COVID-19 disparities in Black Louisiana Communities.

New data recognizes factors that may mitigate the health and economic effects of COVID-19 on Louisiana’s Black residents, including their relationship with medical providers, specifically concerning racial dynamics, distance from facilities and comfort with telemedicine. The data aims to advance programmatic conversations that support favorable outcomes for Black Louisianans as they navigate COVID-19 and future crises. Lead investigator David Stamps, Ph.D., an assistant professor in strategic communication at the Manship School of Mass Communication and a Reilly Center research affiliate, took a deeper look at the personal stories surrounding Baton Rouge’s communities of color during the COVID-19 pandemic. This work follows Stamps’ earlier research on the disparate impact of COVID-19 on Black Baton Rouge residents.  

 Full Report Top Line Second Wave Black and Essential First Wave Research Black and Essential Press Release

Key Takeaways from the Report

  • To mitigate healthcare access and medical information issues, the group may rely on interpersonal engagement with Black leaders, Black medical professionals, and community members. Also, the group may use new media technology to disseminate information, which may reduce vaccine hesitancy.
  • Access to financial resources and COVID-19 information should be a priority for organizations seeking to mitigate adverse outcomes, yet which individuals deliver help and information are equally imperative. The intersection between health messaging, partnering with trusted Black Louisiana medical leaders, influencers, and community partners, and the use of digital media technologies need careful implementation. The notion of community partners needs to be expanded to include small business owners such as barbershop and beauty salon owners, entrepreneurs that manage fast food establishments, and religious leaders.
  • Providing incentives, financial or otherwise, to close the knowledge gap, reduce vaccine hesitancy, and increase information should be prioritized. These incentives may encourage individuals to share information and promote preventive health measures (e.g., getting the vaccine). 

Key Findings from the Report and Practical Implications

One thousand twenty-seven (1,027) Black Louisiana residents answered an open and closed-ended questionnaire. Of the sample, 9%  attended some high school but did not receive a diploma; 33% completed high school; 25% attended college but did not receive a degree, for example associates or bachelor’s degree; 23% graduated from a two or four-year college; and 10% received a post bachelor’s degree, such as a Ph.D. or M.D.

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Black Baton Rouge Residents & Medical Professionals

Fifty-three percent (53%) of participants routinely visit a medical professional who does not identify as Black. What type of culturally sensitive information could be disseminated to help non-Black medical professionals communicate effectively with Black patients? 

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Black Baton Rouge Residents Technology Access & Usage

Ninety-two percent (92%) of participants have access to smartphones. What type of smartphone applications, social media messages or partnerships with social media influencers in the Black community might increase medical knowledge about COVID-19, vaccines and other health precautions?

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Black Baton Rouge Residents Access to Medical Facilities

Seventy-two percent (72%) of participants live 5 miles or more from a medical facility, including their doctor's office or urgent care facility. What transportation barriers (e.g., lacking access to bus lines) could be removed, or what types of transportation access should be explored to address this issue?

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Black Baton Rouge Residents Comfort with Technology and Telemedicine Services

Roughly fifty percent (50%) of participants stated they were comfortable using digital media for telemedicine services. This novel digital form of communication may address distance and transportation issues. How might efforts grow the comfort level among the population (e.g., providing digital literacy programs to encourage the adoption of telemedicine)?

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Black Baton Rouge Residents Financial Resources

Over twenty percent (20%) of participants relied on multiple (four or more) financial resources for assistance during the pandemic. Providing incentives—financial or otherwise—to close the knowledge gap, reduce vaccine hesitancy and increase information should be prioritized. These incentives may encourage individuals to share information and promote preventive health measures.