KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A study focused on increasing testing for COVID-19 in underserved populations is moving into its next phase.
The study, operated by the University of Missouri-Kansas City, is funded by a $1.9 million dollar grant and partners with 16 Kansas City area churches to promote and expand testing in low-income areas of the city.
Dr. Jannette Berkley-Patton is overseeing the project, and said while attention is on vaccinations, testing for the virus is still important.
"When we test, that's when we know what the hot spots are. When we test, we know when people are positive, we can quickly get them the care that's needed. Get them information that they may need on how to isolate or quarantine or share information with others that may have come in contact with them," Berkley-Patton explained.
Through the grant, people will be reached by sermons, testimonials, text messages, and church bulletins so church members understand what the testing process looks like.
Berkley-Patton said eight churches will take part in the study in 2021 and eight more will participate in 2022.
She added that recruitment at the first eight churches will begin in June, followed by intervention and testing.
One area of focus in the study will be how effective messaging to congregants is.
Berkley-Patton said the churches will be split randomly into two groups. One will include standard information from the CDC along with testing. The other group will include testing and a culturally religious intervention called, "Faithful response to Covid-19."
"Suffering comes in the night, but joy comes in the morning. Tap into your joy and get tested for Covid 19. Or it may be something like just as James Brown said get on up, get on up and get your Covid 19 test," Berkley-Patton explained as an example of tailored messaging.
According to Berkley-Patton, a pilot study was conducted at one church where one lesson learned was the fear some people have of how COVID-19 testing is done.
"There's a lot of fear around testing with people thinking they would have to use those test swabs that would go all the way back to the brain. Those ones that were really uncomfortable, that were being used in the early parts of the pandemic," Dr. Berkley-Patton said. "The test swabs that we used, people only have to go back, it's less than an inch into the nostril and so people really, really liked that. They felt that was very comfortable and that they could do it themselves. It was a self-collected test."
Researchers say making people comfortable and communicating in a language that's relatable is the goal.