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Int J Equity Health ; 22(1): 53, 2023 03 28.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-2256436


BACKGROUND: Pre-existing racial/ethnic disparities in health, sustained by intersecting socio-economic and structural inequities, have widened due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet, little attention has been paid to the lived experiences of people in ethnic/racialised minority communities, and to the causes and effects underlying the COVID-19-related burden. This hinders tailored responses. This study explores Sub-Saharan African (SSA) communities' needs, perceptions, and experiences of the COVID-19 pandemic and its control measures in Antwerp (Belgium) in 2020. METHODS: This qualitative study using an interpretative ethnographical approach adopted an iterative and participatory methodology: a community advisory board advised on all stages of the research process. Interviews and a group discussion were conducted online, through telephone, and face-to-face. We analysed the data inductively using a thematic analytical approach. RESULTS: Our respondents, who mostly used social media for information, struggled with misinformation about the new virus and prevention measures. They reported to be vulnerable to misinformation about the origin of the pandemic, risk of infection with SARS-CoV-2, and the prevention measures. Not only did the epidemic affect SSA communities, but to a larger extent, the control strategies did-especially the lockdown. Respondents perceived the interaction of social factors (i.e. being migrants, being undocumented, having experienced racism and discrimination) and economic factors (i.e. working in temporary and precarious jobs, not being able to apply for unemployment benefit, crowded housing conditions) as increasing the burden of COVID-19 control measures. In turn, these experiences influenced people's perceptions and attitudes, and may have partially impaired them to follow some public health COVID-19 prevention guidelines. Despite these challenges, communities developed bottom-up initiatives to react quickly to the epidemic, including translation of prevention messages, food distribution, and online spiritual support. CONCLUSION: Pre-existing disparities influenced the perceptions of and attitudes towards COVID-19 and its control strategies among SSA communities. To better design support and control strategies targeted to specific groups, we need to not only involve communities and address their specific needs and concerns, but also build on their strengths and resilience. This will remain important in the context of widening disparities and future epidemics.

COVID-19 , Humans , COVID-19/epidemiology , COVID-19/prevention & control , SARS-CoV-2 , Pandemics , Belgium/epidemiology , Communicable Disease Control , Africa South of the Sahara/epidemiology
Int J Equity Health ; 21(1): 67, 2022 05 16.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1846842


BACKGROUND: In high income countries, racialized/ethnic minorities are disproportionally affected by COVID-19. Despite the established importance of community involvement in epidemic preparedness, we lack in-depth understanding of these communities' experiences with and responses to COVID-19. We explored information and prevention needs, coping mechanisms with COVID-19 control measures and their impact on lived experiences among selected racialized/ethnic minority communities. METHODS: This qualitative rapid assessment conducted in Antwerp/Belgium used an interpretative and participatory approach. We included migrant communities with geographic origins ranging from Sub-Saharan Africa, North-Africa to the Middle East, Orthodox Jewish communities and professional community workers. Data were collected between May 2020-May 2021 through key informant-, in-depth interviews and group discussions (N = 71). Transcripts were analyzed inductively, adopting a reflexive thematic approach. A community advisory board provided feedback throughout the research process. RESULTS: Participants indicated the need for tailored information in terms of language and timing. At the start of the epidemic, they perceived official public health messages as insufficient to reach all community members. Information sources included non-mainstream (social) media and media from home countries, hampering a nuanced understanding of virus transmission mechanisms and local and national protection measures. Participants felt the measures' most negative impact on their livelihoods (e.g. loss of income, disruption of social and immigration support). Economic insecurity triggered chronic stress and fears at individual and family level. High degrees of distrust in authorities and anticipated stigma were grounded in previously experienced racial and ethnic discrimination. Community-based initiatives mitigated this impact, ranging from disseminating translated and tailored information, providing individual support, and successfully reaching community members with complex needs (e.g. the elderly, digitally illiterate people, those with small social networks or irregular legal status). CONCLUSION: Study participants' narratives showed how coping with and responding to COVID-19 was strongly intertwined with socio-economic and ethnic/racial characteristics. This justifies conceptualizing COVID-19 a social disease. At the same time, communities demonstrated resilience in responding to these structural vulnerabilities. From a health equity perspective, we provide concrete policy recommendations grounded in insights into communities' structural vulnerabilities and resilience.

COVID-19 , Aged , Belgium , COVID-19/prevention & control , Ethnic and Racial Minorities , Ethnicity , Humans , Minority Groups
Int J Equity Health ; 20(1): 78, 2021 03 15.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1136225


BACKGROUND: The importance of community involvement in the response against disease outbreaks has been well established. However, we lack insights into local communities' experiences in coping with the current COVID-19 pandemic. This study explored both the impact of, and response to, COVID-19 within the Orthodox Jewish communities of Antwerp (Belgium) during the first lockdown period (March 2020 - May 2020). METHODS: We conducted an explorative qualitative study using a participatory approach. First, we performed a community mapping to identify relevant stakeholders. Through the active involvement of a community advisory board and based on qualitative interviews with key-informants and community members, we elicited lived experiences, attitudes, and perceptions towards COVID-19. Interviews were conducted both face-to-face and using online web conferencing technology. Data were analyzed inductively according to the principles of thematic analysis. RESULTS: Government-issued outbreak control measures presented context-specific challenges to the Orthodox Jewish communities in Antwerp. They related mainly to the remote organization of religious life, and practicing physical distancing in socially and culturally strongly connected communities. Existing community resources were rapidly mobilized to adapt to the outbreak and to self-organize response initiatives within communities. The active involvement of community and religious leaders in risk communication proved to be of great importance to facilitate the coverage and uptake of pandemic control measures while protecting essential community values and traditions. Creating bottom-up and community-adapted communication strategies, including addressing language barriers and involving Rabbis in the dissemination of prevention messages, fostered a feeling of trust in government's response measures. However, unmet information and prevention needs were also identified, such as the need for inclusive communication by public authorities and the need to mitigate the negative effects of stigmatization. CONCLUSION: The experiences of Orthodox Jewish communities in Antwerp demonstrate a valuable example of a feasible community-centered approach to health emergencies. Increasing the engagement of communities in local decision-making and governance structures remains a key strategy to respond to unmet information and prevention needs.

COVID-19/prevention & control , Communicable Disease Control/methods , Community Participation/psychology , Jews/psychology , Trust/psychology , Adult , Aged , Belgium/epidemiology , Communicable Disease Control/legislation & jurisprudence , Community-Based Participatory Research , Female , Humans , Male , Middle Aged , Qualitative Research , Quarantine/legislation & jurisprudence