Alaska Black Caucus to use COVID-19 money to analyze health status of Black Alaskans

The Alaska Black Caucus says it will use a $1.15 million federal grant for COVID-19 vaccine and testing to create the first-ever statewide report on the health status of Black Alaskans.

A black woman get vaccinated in her arm by a Hawaiian nurse
Felicia Weaver gets a COVID-19 vaccine at a post-Sunday service clinic in the gym of Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church on March 28, 2021 (Lex Treinen/Alaska Public Media)

“And with that, we’ll be able to make recommendations to local and state entities regarding best practices and health-related data collection and reporting by race,” said Celeste Hodge Growden, president of the Alaska Black Caucus. “That’s huge for us.”

The Anchorage Assembly signed off on millions of dollars of federal relief money earmarked for COVID-19 testing and vaccine outreach at a June 23 meeting. The grants were requested by the mayoral administration of Austin Quinn-Davidson and went out to four other organizations.

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While data on COVID-19 has been collected by race and ethnicity, it’s not always complete. The existing data shows that Black Alaskans are significantly less likely to be vaccinated for COVID-19, and also less likely to test positive for the disease. 

Growden said the Black Caucus will host roundtable discussions with local health leaders and national experts to share findings, including hosting a COVID-19 summit for Black Alaskans and a health fair on COVID-19 for people of color.

The group will also expand its COVID-19 vaccine outreach to include people being released from prison. Alaska’s prison population is disproportionately represented by people of color. 

The grant is a boost for the Alaska Black Caucus. The group has been around since the 1970s, but was reorganized in 2019. Growden said the new money will be used to hire a few staff members to do the research and outreach. The organization is currently run by volunteers. Some of it will also be used to renovate the organization’s office. 

The Black Caucus worked closely with Anchorage’s health department during the pandemic. Growden said it’s well-positioned to continue health outreach with the Black community. 

“People might think that we’re a new and young organization, but we are full of experience, the individuals that are involved, and we were full of a wealth of knowledge and information,” she said. 

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