Local leaders encourage health education in Black community

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — This year with Black History Month, there is also a focus on the importance of health and wellness.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Offices of Minority Health is collaborating with healthcare workers around the country to highlight the impacts COVID-19 has on African Americans with underlying health issues.

Local organizations have vaccinated thousands of more Kern County residents against COVID-19.

Local leaders are working to ease vaccine hesitancy in communities here in Bakersfield by partnering with healthcare organizations to provide easier access to COVID-19 vaccines, testing, and resources to underserved communities.

“We know that there are a lot of health disparities among the African American and Hispanic community,” said Marie Ruffin, Clinical Director.

Between helping communities in need and combating misinformation Ruffin said she helps organizations partner with Kern Medical to provide vaccine clinics to the community.

“We try to also bring in people that are professional so that they can see us. To see representation, nurses, providers, and doctors, so that they can give them some type of information in regards to the vaccine, break down all of the myths, breakdown the fears or the concerns.”

Founder of both the MLK CommUNITY Initiative and ShePower Leadership Academy, Arleana Waller, said she’s been on the frontlines since the very beginning of the pandemic.

“I realized there were no efforts penetrated to the African American community. I started reaching my arms out like an octopus finding someone to support and help us reach the African American community, not to say get vaccinated or don’t get vaccinated, but to educate and engage them so they would have the information to make their best choice,” said Ruffin.

With the help of state and local resources, she’s seen a difference.

“We were able, through those efforts, to vaccinate over 50,000 people. Through our efforts in the community, we’ve partnered with CBO’s, we’ve partnered with hospitals, we’ve partnered with clinics where probably just our efforts in our collaboration have been able to get more than 80,000, I would say vaccinated,” said Waller.

Ruffin said health disparity is a big problem.

“Everybody has a different experience in that don’t let myths or fears stop them from getting the vaccine and also getting information about it.”

“We’re not out there saying vaccine, vaccine, vaccine. We’re out there saying vaccinate yourself make a decision that works for your family but what you see is happening is a lot of people are not educated so they can’t make that decision, that’s important,” said Waller.

Waller said the goal is to reach even more people and additional COVID-19 testing sites are expected to open on Saturdays.