Health problems complicate efforts to fight off the COVID-19 pandemic, health experts say

Watch: Health problems complicate efforts to fight off the COVID-19 pandemic, health experts say

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Health problems in Shelby County like diabetes, heart disease and asthma are all complicating efforts to fight off the pandemic.

Methodist Le Bonheur Health Care launched a new effort to examine the cause of health issues and what solutions are needed.

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Health experts said a food desert will cause health issues for people in a community and with a pandemic, it can lead to a crisis.

A closed Save-A-Lot grocery store disappointed customers in need of fresh produce and other items.

“I thought I was going to get some Tilapia today but I guess it is a different story,” said Ty Shelton, Memphis resident.

Shelton watched his diet because of the death of his father.

“My dad died of diabetes in 2013,” Shelton said. “It wasn’t because of a drought or anything like that it was between hospitals, insurance and things like that.”

His concerns might have gone unnoticed but they might reach the ears of Sandra Madubuonwu, Senior Director of Social Determinants of Health and Wellness Methodist Le Bonheur Health Care.

“When you talk about diabetes, we have more numbers than other races,” said Madubuonwu.

Madubuonwu is the new director of Le Bonheur’s effort to reduce comorbidities among African Americans and the community as a whole.

“So when COVID hit, it is no surprise that we are the ones that got impacted the most,” Madubuonwu said.

Madubuonwu will lead an effort to improve outreach in underserved communities, develop a new strategy to tackle social disparities in community health and find causes and solutions.

“What we do sometimes is we work on these issues in silos but now there will be an opportunity for all us to come together,” Madubuonwu said.

Methodist planned to engage the community to find out if current programs such as walk-in clinics and partnerships with churches are working or if more resources are needed.

It will try to influence policy on issues such as housing and transportation while examining its own hiring and training practices for medical professionals.

“But the biggest thing Methodist is doing is to shine a light on this and keeping the light to keep shinning,” Madubuonwu said.

Madubuonwu added that the health care system will release annual reports on challenges and success.

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