Archives April 2020

Bridge with mist and the CEG logo and website

So, I’ve Been Thinking: What COVID-19 Reveals About Our Public Health System

CEG Founder & Executive Director, A. Toni Young, with Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

So, I’ve been thinking about how none of us can truly avoid the impact of COVID-19. Either we know someone who’s been impacted by it, or we have been impacted by it ourselves, or maybe we are now working from home, even reconfiguring our whole organizations and the way we do our work. Everybody is impacted—but I’ve been thinking especially about how COVID-19 impacts the most vulnerable, and what this shows about the gaps in our health system.

It is no surprise that already-vulnerable groups need protection during this pandemic. CEG’s mission is built around addressing social, economic and environmental factors that generate health disparities in low-income communities, among people of color, and in marginalized groups such as the LGBTQIA+ community. That mission is also what ultimately led CEG to expand its operations beyond urban communities of color.

It turns out that poor rural communities in states like Louisiana, West Virginia, Missouri, and Mississippi actually have a lot in common with poor urban communities, in terms of vulnerability due to underlying social determinants of health. Yet some poor and rural states have been slower to respond to the pandemic, perhaps in part because lower population density in rural areas may seem to mitigate risk. Unfortunately this can lull people into a false sense of security, causing them to neglect taking precautions like physical distancing, wearing a mask, and washing hands.

Rural areas also tend to have fewer doctors and nurses. Here in West Virginia, almost 20% of adults do not have a personal doctor or primary care provider. This shortfall could result in underreporting, as well as making it harder for people to get referrals for testing. Even when people do have doctors, transportation issues can limit their access to healthcare services. Add to that factors like poverty, food insecurity, low rates of literacy and education, and frequent distrust of government, and you begin to understand how vulnerable these communities can be. The COVID Community Vulnerability Map created by the healthcare analytics company Jvion illustrates this clearly.

These parallels between vulnerable urban and rural communities make it clear that even while many of us advocate for different demographics and constituencies, we can and must come together in our response to COVID-19, just as we must unite in responding to ongoing threats such as HIV, hepatitis, and opioid use. We can no longer afford to operate in isolation, or respond in isolation when a crisis hits. We all need to work together to ensure that our citizens are protected and cared for.

At CEG, we hope to start up a “getting to know you” webinar series about these common struggles shared by disparate communities whether they urban or rural, black or white. But that’s just the beginning. If we are going to become more resilient, we have to absorb the lessons COVID-19 is teaching us about our health system. As recently noted by Hanna Love and Jennifer S. Vey of the Brookings Institution, in moving forward we should “adopt service-based systems or outreach-team approaches that connect people with permanent supportive housing, employment training, child care subsidies, doctors and therapists, and financial and budgeting assistance.”

To accomplish this, we will need to fashion a network of responders for our communities that is diverse. We will need to look at what we have and what we can bring to the collective. If we come together and we work together on goals like improving mobility and portability of services, we can reach the people who are in the greatest need. Some of these people are poor, black or brown, living with HIV. Others are white, rural, drug users. All of them need us to work collectively, reimagine how we address health crises, and build a stronger and fairer system that can help prevent such crises in the future. That’s how we get better and stay better: together.

Wooden Grist Mill in the Fall

Communicating Public Health Messages Through Community Engagement

Any time there’s a public health crisis, healthcare officials are faced with the challenge of how best to communicate messages to the public. With that in mind, CEG has sourced two articles focusing on how to communicate public health messages both on social media and in rural settings—areas where CEG is working tirelessly to communicate with folks in West Virginia.  Check out the links, below:

Social Media in Public Health: A Vital Component of Community Engagement
By: Mark R. Miller, William D. Snook, and Elizabeth Walsh

Community Engagement Toolkit for Rural Hospitals
From: Washington State Hospital Association

AIDS 2020 Virtual Conference Logo

COVID-19 and HIV

COVID-19 has raised myriad questions
across the healthcare landscape, but
especially in the HIV community. For
people living with HIV, each new virus
represents an unknown set of variables,
each of which must be considered by
both patients and providers.

The International AIDS Society has put
together this helpful primer on HIV and
COVID-19 which answers many of these
questions. Check it out at the link below,
and learn more about Virtual AIDS
2020 – the 23rd Annual International
AIDS Conference here. The conference
will be held July 6-10, 2020.

COVID-19 and HIV: What you need to know
From: International AIDS Society

Community Education Group's COVID-19 Infographic

Community Education Group Launches COVID-19 Best Practices Infographic For Harm Reduction Programs

As the Coronavirus (COVID-19) forces society to engage in preventative measures such as social distancing, #CEGInWV has created a Best Practices poster for use by Harm Reduction Programs offering services to People Who Use Drugs during this pandemic. In this time of uncertainty, it is imperative that those operating HRPs do everything in their power to ensure the safety of both their staff and their clients, as well as engage clients in best practices to stay safe while using.

New River Gorge in Summer

Community Education Group & TruEvolution Partner For COVID-19 Congressional Sign-On Effort

On behalf of TruEvolution (Riverside, CA) and the Community Education Group (Shepherdstown, West Virginia), I am writing to invite your organization to join a coalition of rural-serving Community-Based Organizations (CBOs), rural health organizations, and Federally-Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) in asking the House and Senate to include in the forthcoming COVID-19-related stimulus bill specifically appropriated funding dedicated to supporting, expanding, and mobilizing Rural Health Service Providers (#RHSPs) and the long neglected and underfunded public health infrastructures in rural America.

While the definition of “rural” varies, we hope to find a common ground in the disproportionate underinvestment of infrastructure, transportation, and geographic isolation experienced by many of our canyons, hills, plains, mountains, woods, and deserts. We invite you to participate on a call where we can discuss developing a coalition-led approach in our advocacy. The full text of the letter can be found here, and here are some of the highlights of we have requested:

  • Dedicate $5b in federal grant monies to be used for:
  • Sustaining and supporting existing operations rural health organizations, clinics, and CBOs;
  • Expanding operations in order to add or broaden their capacity to provide telehealth/telemedicine services;
  • Mobilizing operations by procuring and outfitting mobile units to take healthcare services where rural Americans live;
  • Investing in building and expanding the public health infrastructures in rural areas to increase access to services.

We have also provided a ten-point Fact Sheet, which you can find here. We hope that your organization will sign on to this letter and call your members of Congress. Individuals may also sign on to this letter – simply enter “Individual” or your field of work in the “Organization” field. We encourage you to join us and to share this sign on letter and fact sheet with your networks.

Thank you, for taking the time out of your very busy schedules to read this E-mail. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to Gabriel Maldonado (TruEvolution) or A. Toni Young (Community Education Group).

Be well,

Community Education Group Launches New Website

The Community Education Group's new homepage

Things are a bit shinier around CEG
these days. As you may have noticed,
our website has been relaunched with
more than just a new coat of paint; we’ve
got a whole new design rolling out today.

Thanks to our partners at Fors Marsh Group, for their excellent work on giving our website a much-needed facelift!

Please take a few moments to dig through our site, and if you find any bugs, please drop us a line at, and we’ll address it as quickly as we can.