Loyola’s Health Justice Project tackles health inequities and COVID-19
Interprofessional collaboration offers free testing and resources to support vulnerable populations
The COVID-19 pandemic’s disproportionate impact on Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities, people with disabilities, and other vulnerable populations has exposed structural inequities in the distribution of resources and access to health care in unprecedented ways. Faculty and students in Loyola University Chicago School of Law’s Health Justice Project clinic and in Loyola’s schools of Public Health, Nursing, and Medicine have responded with outreach and services targeted at communities underrepresented in the allocation of resources yet overrepresented by COVID-19 cases and its financial and health consequences.
The COVID Equity Responsive Collaborative Loyola (CERCL) is a multidisciplinary team of public health, medicine, nursing, law, and social work students, faculty, and professionals working with community leaders and public health officials to provide free COVID-19 testing, training in contact tracing, and resources, advice, and referrals to support vulnerable community members. This testing, tracing, and supports initiative addresses the needs of communities disproportionately affected by COVID-19 in Chicago’s western suburbs. More than 670 individuals have already been tested by CERCL at mobile sites in Maywood and Melrose Park near Chicago. Maywood, a community that is 68.3 percent Black and 27.3 percent Latinx, had a 7.9 percent COVID positivity rate. Melrose Park, a community that is 74.2 percent Latinx, had a 18.1 percent positivity rate, compared to the overall positivity rates of 5.8 percent in Cook County.
Loyola University Chicago School of Law’s Health Justice Project (HJP), housed within the Beazley Institute of Health Law and Policy, is playing a key role in CERCL. HJP faculty, volunteers, and students helped develop a screening tool to identify community members with social and legal needs related to COVID-19. By screening community members at mobile testing sites, the HJP has identified and followed up with more than 100 patients in need of support and has served more than 23 thus far. The HJP also has worked with partners to develop a resource handout for testing participants and a website outlining essential COVID-19 resources.
“Since people who have tested positive can’t work, the most frequent areas of need are related to loss of income and the struggle to afford rent,” says Kate Mitchell, director of Loyola’s HJP. “We advise people on legal issues ranging from the Illinois eviction moratorium to eligibility for public assistance and Medicaid.” Other common issues include lack of health insurance or a primary care provider, and concerns about child care and access to education, Mitchell says.