Public Health & Discussing the Effects of COVID-19

African American woman getting a medical treatment

African American Mental Health and Wellness (AMEN) team is collaborating with KAZI FM 88.7 in producing a radio series to highlight the importance of addressing mental health and physical wellness in the African American community. The monthly series will feature AMEN team members from the School of Nursing, leaders from Mt. Zion Baptist and Rehoboth Baptist churches, and community organizations who provide mental health resources and support in Travis County. 


Episode 21: Public Health & Discussing the Effects of COVID-19

September 8, 2021 Podcast:
September 22, 2021 Podcast:

Co-moderators Shannon W. Jones and Jacki Hecht interviewed Dr. Desmar Walkes, the health authority for Austin and Travis County and Medical Director for Austin Public Health as well as Adrienne Sturrup, Interim Austin Public Health Director and Assistant Director for Community Engagement on September 8th, 2021. Their conversation focused on the impact of COVID-19 on chronic disease and mental health within the African American community during the pandemic.

Dr. Walkes states, “There have been widespread delays and neglect in care that have occurred because people haven’t seen primary care in a long time due to the pandemic.” Dr. Walkes adds that 11% of COVID cases are among African Americans and only 30% of African Americans have been vaccinated. Adrienne Sturrup sheds light on the gaps that continue to persist with the lack of vaccinations occurring within the African American and Hispanic communities.

The COVID-19 vaccine has also caused many to feel a sense of distrust because it was released to the public in record-breaking time. However, Dr. Walkes assures listeners by explaining that scientists were able to create a vaccine quickly because of the vast knowledge they already had about mRNA vaccines. Development of the COVID-19 vaccine was also a worldwide collaboration among many scientists to make sure that all precautions were carefully taken in efforts to decrease the disparities that have come along with the fatal virus.

This discussion continued on September 22nd as Jacki Hecht spoke with Shannon Jones about the best strategies for prevention. Jones notes that there has been a large increase in the number of individuals experiencing stress, creating a domino effect of additional health disparities among people of color and their loved ones. For example, the African American population is at high risk for diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and HIV, further compounding their risk for COVID. Shannon Jones shares that one of the best strategies to reduce risk is through prevention; exercising and eating a well-balanced diet. Jacki Hecht furthers this point by adding the importance of sharing information and support on these very pressing health topics.

Jones encourages others to start “treating our bodies like our cars” by emphasizing routine self-care to improve health and wellness. Hecht mentions that the lack of human connection has caused additional stressors during the pandemic. Both Jones and Hecht encourage listeners to get vaccinated, wear masks, and reach out to loved ones to remain socially connected, while maintaining physical distance in high-risk situations. Jones reminds listeners to persevere as difficult times continue and remain “strong and faithful” to help each other thrive to get through this pandemic.

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Oct. 13, 2021