ACHI President and CEO Dr. Joe Thompson discusses the COVID-19 pandemic and ZIP code risk, or health disparities based on where people live, during a guest appearance on the latest episode of the podcast of the Community Development Institute at the University of Central Arkansas.
“I feel like we are coming to the light at the end of the tunnel here in the spring of 2021 after a pretty bleak year. 2020 is not something we want to repeat again,” Thompson tells host Dylan Edgell.
Thompson says he is concerned about the emerging coronavirus variants, long-term effects of COVID-19, and other “tricks that this virus has up its sleeve.” He notes that during the influenza pandemic that began in the spring of 1918, the initial wave was followed by resurgences.
“If you’ve not had the vaccine, get the vaccine so that you’re protected next fall if the [virus that causes COVID-19] or one of its variants does resurrect itself,” Thompson says.
Discussing ZIP code risk, Thompson says that, for example, the average life expectancy in Southeast Arkansas is 10 years shorter than in Northwest Arkansas, a difference that can be attributed to social determinants of health such as access to healthy foods, job opportunities, and built environments that encourage or discourage physical activity. ZIP code risk has impacted how different communities have been affected by COVID-19, he adds.
“Any time we have one of these threats, we need to spend extra effort to reach the low-income communities, the communities of color, those that are most at risk, without transportation, so that we bring everybody along and we leave no one behind,” he says.
For more on these topics, see our COVID-19 in Arkansas page, our interactive ZIP code risk maps of five Arkansas communities, and Thompson’s column in the Healthcare Journal of Arkansas on racial equity concerns in the COVID-19 vaccine rollout.