“We can't address those needs if we're not able to assess them. So this is sort of the first step in knowing what needs there are, so it can inform public health measures moving forward,” Velez-Bermudez said. Photo Mike Fetterer / Hola Iowa
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Researchers are trying to figure out the long-term effects of COVID-19 on Latino households in Iowa. To do that, they have sent surveys to Latinos throughout the state.

Latinos have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19 both physically and psychologically. Two doctoral students at the University of Iowa are working on figuring out the specifics. Once they do that, they plan on sending their findings to stakeholders, which include local public health departments.

Crystal Garcia and Miriam Velez-Bermudez sent out bilingual surveys and are now starting to receive feedback. The survey asks general questions about how people’s lives have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. But they wanted to focus on one group of people they said have appeared to be consistently overlooked in the past: Latinos in Iowa.

“Both of us being Latinas ourselves, kind of found that was really important as well. But there are kind of gaps in knowledge about how COVID-19 has affected the health and well being of Iowans, specifically Latinos,” Garcia said. “So kind of this effort is really focused on kind of gathering that information.”

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A few groups have attempted to gather such information, but not all have been successful. Garcia said this is not an option for them.

“With that mission in mind, disappearing really wasn’t an option. I think both of us, Miriam and I, are aware that we could get a lower than desired response rate and have some ideas for targeting that, but definitely don’t think that this would kind of disappear into the ether,” Garcia explained.

They sent the 2,500 surveys to randomly selected households in counties: Dallas, Marshall, Muscatine, Polk, Woodbury, Buena Vista, Crawford, Luisa and Sioux. All of which have high Hispanic or Latino populations and who may have specific needs and priorities related to the pandemic.

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“We can’t address those needs if we’re not able to assess them. So this is sort of the first step in knowing what needs there are, so it can inform public health measures moving forward,” Velez-Bermudez said. “Especially since, I mean the pandemic, we see light at the end of the tunnel, but it’s not over yet.”

She added it is difficult to assess what long-term impacts Latinos in Iowa will face in the future. She said hopefully, if certain problems are determined now, they can avoid those in any future public health issues.

“We don’t really I think, have a good sense of what those long term impacts might be. I mean, we’ve heard right, like food security, mental health, but like really quantifying what that looks like,” Garcia added.

The students hope to have enough responses for data analysis by late spring or early summer.

“We don’t just want numbers. We want it to look meaningful to a wider audience. And that takes a little more time than just getting the data,” Velez-Bermudez explained.

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The mailed surveys each come with a $5 incentive to complete the survey online or return by mail.

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