Among North Philadelphia’s Latino elders during COVID-19

Penn LDI Nurse researcher Adriana Perez focuses on a particularly vulnerable population.

Although they live in one of Philadelphia’s most crime-ridden and unhealthy neighborhoods, North Philadelphia’s community of Latino elders has the benefit of having one of the city’s most diverse health care workforces, says Nursing School faculty member Adriana Perez, who provides care and conducts research there. 

Older person’s torso closeup with hands holding onto a walker

“The question of disparities and COVID-19’s effect on older Latino adults who are already experiencing disparities is an important one, and the diversity of the health care workforce here is a real asset,” says Perez. She is an assistant professor at the School of Nursing, an LDI senior fellow, a board-certified adult nurse practitioner at North Hancock Mercy LIFE in North Philadelphia, and past chair of the Expert Panel on Aging at the American Academy of Nursing.

“A strength of North Philadelphia is that its health care workforce does mirror the community,” says Perez. “Generally, if you have an elder experiencing the symptoms of COVID-19 who only speaks Spanish and is not accompanied by a loved one during this period of lockdown, it presents even more challenges for the medical team taking care of that person.

“But here, I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how my colleagues are very diverse,” says Perez. “There are Spanish-speaking staffers at all levels—nurses, primary care providers, nurses’ aides.

“For all minority elders,” she explains, “the workforce becomes so much more important during this pandemic. When people are without their families, having someone that understands their language and culture, and knows what their challenges are, really makes a difference. For me, it also highlights why health care in general needs a workforce that reflects the people it takes care of.”

Read more at Penn LDI.