Brazos County Health District host series of focus groups aimed to improve health equity
“We hear a lot of vaccine hesitancy and people being skeptical, which is true and very valid. However, there are really credible people trying to do this work and have the best interest of residents.”
BRYAN, Texas (KBTX) -The Brazos County Health District hosted its first of several health equity focus groups Wednesday in Bryan.
The health department says its focus is to meet and improve the health needs of minority groups and underserved communities impacted by COVID-19.
Health disparities are not limited to race and ethnicity. Gender, sexual identity and orientation, disability status, and geographic location all play a vital role in the healthcare one may or may not receive.
The Brazos County Health District says its goal is to ensure that everyone has a fair opportunity to be as healthy as possible. Wednesday’s focus group was aimed at improving health disparities and equity in two Brazos County zip codes in particular. According to the health district, the 77803 zip code in Bryan and the 77840 zip code in College Station are areas of concern regarding the spread of COVID-19 and low vaccination rates.
Felicia Benford, the equity coordinator for the Brazos County Health District, was one of the moderators for the focus group. She says it’s essential for the community and health officials to collaborate to come up with solutions to fix some of the disparities. Benford says education is the first step to fixing some of the problems.
“We’ve identified areas that we need to target as far as educational programs that are needed in the community and this area,” said Benford. “We want to be able to go back to the team that works with us at the health district to address these problems and try to come up with some solutions.”
Lillie Downs, a Bryan resident, attended the focus group to ask questions on behalf of community members who could not participate on Wednesday. She says these conversations are very much needed.
“It’s a good brainstorming session to make sure you’re covering questions the community has,” said Downs.
Jacquita Johnson is a Texas A&M University student majoring in public health and interns at the Brazos County Health Department. She says public health messaging is one area residents say needs improvement.
“We need to take the actual information to them, provide a resource list with where they can get tested, where they can get vaccinated, and where they can most importantly get credible information as it becomes updated,” said Johnson.
Johnson and Benford both say communicating and working with other health care agencies and nonprofits is another area in need of focus.
“If we come together and work as a collective team, then we can have a bigger impact in the community,” said Johnson.
“Each charitable organization, each church, individual group everyone is trying to service the community, and everyone is doing a fabulous job,” said Benford. “But I think if we all get together and get on one accord and we make one coalition group, I think we can reach the community a lot better.”
The Health Equity team will have additional focus groups on Saturday, Oct. 16, at 2:00 p.m. at the Carver Kemp Association located at 1401 West Martin Luther King Street in Bryan and Wednesday, Oct. 27, at 7 p.m. at the Grace Bible Church located at 1615 Beck Street in Bryan.
Benford encourages everyone to attend the focus groups and says change can only happen if you speak up and speak out.
“It’s not the health district putting these on just to give out information. We’re trying to find out information from the community, from the individuals as to what they need, where we can better serve them, and what the needs are of the community,” said Benford.
“We just want to better serve the community,” said Benford. “We’d like to get the information out to better educate everyone from the elderly, all the way down to the youth, wanting to make sure that everyone stays safe.”
Copyright 2021 KBTX. All rights reserved.