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Study relies on 'established trust' to improve COVID-19 testing in underserved communities

Posted at 4:00 AM, Dec 11, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-11 11:37:32-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Leaders at the University of Missouri-Kansas City say established trust could be key in reaching underserved communities in Kansas City with COVID-19 testing.

UMKC is slated to receive nearly $2 million from the Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics Underserved Populations (RADx-UP) program to fund studying the effects of church-based intervention on COVID-19 testing rates.

Jannette Berkley-Patton with UMKC's School of Medicine said the partnership is about relying on an established trust between institutions, their congregations and the neighborhoods they serve.

“We just believe that this is a credible way to not only reach many people in pews, but other community members they serve through their outreach ministries," Berkley-Patton said.

UMKC is partnering with 16 Kansas City-area churches to expand testing.

“We’ll be working with the Kansas City Health Department to provide COVID-19 testing at the church sites. In many cases, it will be in their parking lots as a drive through testing event. In some cases, it will be in the fellowship hall with all precautions taken," Berkley-Patton said.

Rev. Eric Williams of Calvary Temple Baptist Church said he's eager to work with UMKC on their efforts, but added his church has taken steps to make sure members are educated on COVID-19.

"We're doing a lot of telephone calling and texting and emails using as much electronic media as we can to get the messages out," he said.

Williams said his main message to people is to make sure their health and faith are equally strong during the pandemic.

"It means a lot to us when we see healthy, whole people," Williams siad.

Churches participating in the partnership have not been announced yet.

Berkely-Patton said testing should start in early spring 2021.

UMKC’s study will focus on one “primarily African American community” in the city, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Washington University in St. Louis will receive $2.8 million for similar studies.

The RADx-UP program is part of a larger initiative co-sponsored by U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt.