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The big picture

Understanding the impact of COVID-19 on Hispanic families

COVID-19 has destroyed and disrupted lives across the world. But while virtually everyone has suffered at the hand of the virus, some groups in our community have been hit disproportionately hard.

“In addition to experiencing worse health outcomes than other ethnic groups, Hispanic families are enduring some of the worst economic consequences of this pandemic,” says Daphne C. Hernandez, PhD. She is exploring these disparities by studying where parents and teens in Hispanic immigrant families get information about COVID-19, what their beliefs are about the disease, how socioeconomic factors are affecting their health behaviors, and how the virus and other stressors impact their mental health.

These health and economic disparities may be rooted in a number of factors. According to Hernandez, Hispanic residents are losing work or taking pay cuts at higher rates than other groups, they are less likely to have health insurance, and they are more likely to have chronic health problems that make them susceptible to severe illness.

The three-part study began with an online survey in November 2020. From there, it will proceed into focus groups and finish with a photo elicitation phase, where parents and teens will take pictures depicting the positive and negative aspects of their lives during the pandemic.

“Our findings will help us see the big-picture impact of the pandemic on Hispanic families in our community, which will help us work with local and state officials to develop policies and programs that serve as a safety net,” says Hernandez.

In June 2020, she received a $25,000 Dean’s Research Award for the study, which is helping her team recruit families. She hopes to secure additional funding to expand the study to different regions across the nation.

“As a daughter of immigrants, I am keenly aware of the challenges these families face, including economic hardship and food insecurity,” she says. “I am passionate about finding ways to help, especially as we grapple with this devastating health crisis. Above all, I hope our work helps eliminate the inequalities that plague our communities.”

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