UK Center of Excellence in Rural Health releases COVID research report

Researchers at the University of Kentucky Center of Excellence in Rural Health (UK CERH) have released COVID-19 Stakeholder Experiences in Kentucky, a report that details the findings of surveys taken by more than 900 healthcare providers, school leaders, community health workers and their clients and community members in Kentucky during the summer and fall of 2020.

“The survey was developed to gain knowledge about how COVID-19 has impacted various stakeholders,” said Dr. Fran Feltner, director of the UK CERH. “It also explores the barriers and strengths of broadband/telehealth and attitudes about COVID-19 vaccines.”

Key findings of the survey include:

  • Healthcare providers reported that many in-person services had stopped and that other services were delivered remotely or via telehealth. Some services that were still in-person moved to curbside delivery, including family planning visits. Others described a shift in roles within the community, primarily to support COVID testing.
  • When asked about the impact of COVID-19, educators described an expansion of roles among staff and a rapid adoption of new technology. Educators also described their staff as being dedicated to meeting the needs of their students including ensuring access to food and learning materials for those without reliable internet service.
  • Community health workers stated that they had seen changes in the types of clients contacting them, observed changing needs of clients, had been required to change how they delivered services to clients, and noted changes to the work environment.
  • Community members stated that they had experienced delays in important activities, including doctor visits and preventative exams.
  • Community members, including clients of CHWs, voiced concerns that they might catch the virus or were concerned that they would unintentionally infect more vulnerable members of their community. Depression was frequently self-reported among respondents.
  • The majority of both community members and community health worker clients reported “don’t know” when asked if they would be willing to get a COVID-19 vaccine if it was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (note that at the time of the survey, no vaccine was currently available). Only 31 percent of community members and 28 percent of community health worker clients stated they would be willing to get the vaccine when approved.
  • Approximately 30 percent of community members and clients of community health workers reported using telehealth to see providers (since March 2020). Of those who reported using telehealth, 84 percent reporting being satisfied with it.

The survey was designed and implemented by the UK CERH research committee, which has representatives from the UK Colleges of Health Sciences, Social Work, Public Health and Medicine. The analysis was completed by the Center for Rural Health Research at the East Tennessee State University College of Public Health. Kentucky Homeplace community health workers assisted with getting surveys to participants in hard-to-reach, underserved populations.

To access the COVID-19 Stakeholder Experiences in the Commonwealth of Kentucky, visit https://bit.ly/3y2fY1Q.

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