May 20, 2020
Spotlight on Health: A COVID-19 Update from Fry Foundation Health Grantees
The world has changed fundamentally for the health sector over the past several months.
In early April, over 70% of recorded COVID-19 deaths in Chicago were African-American patients (46% statewide). Many factors contribute to this racial inequity. Pre-existing health conditions like high blood pressure, asthma, and diabetes are more prevalent in black and Latinx communities due to a lack of access to healthcare. And these conditions put people at the highest risk for death from the coronavirus. There are also social factors, often called social determinants of health, related to socioeconomic and environmental factors that are driving this disparity. Social distancing is a privileged concept. Out of necessity, low-income people tend to live in more crowded homes; work in public-facing service sector jobs; cannot afford to stay home; rely on public transportation; and are concentrated in disinvested neighborhoods.
Fry Foundation grantees have been nimble and reshaped their care delivery to meet the demands of COVID-19. Frontline medical providers are pushed to the limit, and resources are stretched thin. The confluence of shifting COVID-19 guidance, changing Medicaid policies, and the State’s stay-at-home order has required health clinics to adapt protocols and reassess capacities continually.
On April 10, 2020, Governor Pritzker announced plans for four federally qualified health centers on Chicago's South and West sides to expand COVID-19 testing for the underinsured and uninsured to more than 400 tests per day. This is part of a multi-faceted effort to address the lack of services on the west side of Chicago. Three of the four clinics tapped for this initiative are Fry Foundation grantees: Lawndale Christian Health Center, PCC Community Wellness Center, and Chicago Family Health Center.
The pandemic has also stressed the sector financially. The federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act will provide some relief as new money comes to the state to increase COVID-19 screening and testing, acquire medical supplies and protective equipment, and boost telehealth capacity. The State has allocated CARES funding to many Fry Foundation grantees:
• Access Community Health Network
• Asian Human Services Family Health
• Chicago Family Health Center, Inc.
• Christian Community Health Center
• Erie Family Health Center
• Esperanza Health Centers
• Hamdard Center
• Heartland Health Centers
• Howard Brown Health Center
• Lawndale Christian Health Center
• Near North Health Services
• PCC Community Wellness Center
• TCA Health, Inc.
Esperanza Health Center is one of the Fry Foundation grantees that has received CARES funding. It is a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) that offers a range of culturally sensitive primary medical services including pediatrics, family practice, obstetrics and gynecology, podiatry, and allergy/immunology. Esperanza’s four sites in Little Village (South Lawndale), Marquette Park (Chicago Lawn), and Brighton Park deliver care to over 20,000 patients each year from communities across the Southwest Side.
In a recent newsletter, Esperanza shared that according to the Chicago Department of Public Health data in early May, the city’s Latinx population represented not only the greatest number of known COVID-19 cases, but the highest rate of infection:
Latinx individuals are 29.0% of Chicago’s population yet 41.6% of known Covid-19 cases.
Here is how Esperanza is responding:
- Esperanza has tested 3627 individuals, identifying 1799 who were positive, to whom its offer ongoing care.
- Clinical staffing is the limiting factor to doing more tests, so it is bringing on additional staff. Esperanza has hired a full-time registered nurse to help provide positive Covid-19 test results to its patients.
- It has been busy providing care on all fronts: telehealth visits, telecounseling sessions, critical in-clinic appointments, and testing in drive-through tents. The communities Esperanza serves are turning to it in great numbers; in fact, it had more patient encounters in April than in any month since Esperanza began.
Fry Foundation grantees continue to identify new ways to ensure patients receive the care they need, relying on care teams, electronic medical records, and care coordination systems developed with the support of the Fry Foundation. We have been monitoring the spread of COVID-19 with a deep concern for the pressures and risks under which grantees are operating. We are proud of our grantees, and we recognize the enormous value of their work.