Mi Vida Cuenta: Long Beach looks to create Latino health initiative to address health disparities in communities hard-hit by the pandemic

Rate of COVID cases in Long Beach by zip code, the darker orange signifying highest rates compared to the paler orange. Neighborhoods with the highest concentrations of Latino residents—zip codes 90802, 90805, 90810 and 90813—continue to be COVID-19 hotspots. (City of Long Beach COVID-19 Dashboard)

MI VIDA CUENTA. MY LIFE MATTERS.

That’s the name of Long Beach’s newest Latino health initiative, one that hopes to bridge the gap between Latino health and that of their white counterparts.

“As vaccines become more available, it is absolutely unacceptable that we allow the gap to continue,” Councilmember Mary Zendejas said. “We have an obligation to ensure that we are prioritizing the health of our Latino residents.”

Long Beach’s Latinx residents have been hard-hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. High case numbers, low vaccination rates and an ever-looming economic crisis are poised to threaten the well-being of Latino residents. 

Data showing Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander community members having the highest rates of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths, followed by Hispanics and Latinos, Black and African Americans and Asian community members, in comparison to the white population. (City of Long Beach)

“We have never seen, in the history of Long Beach, no health emergency like we have experienced with COVID-19, that has hit the Latino community harder, three times harder, than any other community,” said Executive Director of Centro CHA Jessica Quintana. 

Neighborhoods with the highest concentrations of Latino residents—zip codes 90802, 90805, 90810 and 90813—continue to be COVID-19 hotspots. 

Hipsanic and Latino residents make up the biggest portion of Long Beach residents, but have been vaccinated at lower rates compared to their white counterparts. (City of Long Beach)

In addition to longstanding problems that have been exacerbated by the pandemic, Latino residents are also least likely to have access to internet, city services and proper health care. 

“We’ve had members in our community, not only […]one member of their family, but they have lost several members of their family,” Quintana said. 

These compounding issues have made it difficult to reach some of Long Beach’s most vulnerable populations. Through collaborations with community organizations, the City has been able to distribute nearly 1,000 vaccinations to hard-to-reach populations. 

These “trusted messengers” will play an important role in the health initiative, helping to fill gaps in the City’s vaccine rollout.

Rate of COVID cases in Long Beach by zip code, the darker values signifying highest rates of residents who have been vaccinated. Neighborhoods with the highest concentrations of Latino residents—zip codes 90802, 90805, 90810 and 90813—continue to be COVID-19 hotspots, yet are some of the lowest vaccinated populations. (COVID-19 Dashboard | City of Long Beach)

City Manager Tom Modica will work to address the council’s requests for the initiative: improving health literacy, combating misinformation, ensuring multilingual outreach, increasing internet access and engaging community-based organizations throughout the process. 

“This pandemic has been anything but fair. Many folks in our most vulnerable communities were hit the hardest,” Councilmember Cindy Allen said. “This item will lay the foundation on how we build community resilience.”

The next Long Beach City Council meeting will take place on Tuesday, March 23 at 5 p.m. via teleconference. 

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