RAVE² addressing disease disparities, improving health outcomes

Published 5:55 pm Wednesday, January 4, 2023

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Rural Alabama Vaccination Education and Events is a program focused on increasing COVID-19 vaccination rates and addressing disparities in COVID outcomes. Each month, organizers hand out around 30 bags of fresh vegetables to residents in Lowndes County.

The collaborative effort between Tuskegee University, Tuskegee University Cooperative Extension, the Tuskegee Area Health Education Center, and Rhema Health and Wellness works toward improving individual’s health as it relates to hypertension, diabetes, and obesity.

Tuskegee farmers provide fresh peas, greens, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, and other seasonal vegetables which are then distributed in poor communities of Lowndes County in an effort to improve overall health while providing COVID-19 information.

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“We give them the bag of vegetables and we include our brochure about COVID-19,” said Lowndes County RAVE² Coordinator Arthur Nelson. “We’re educating the community on good health by giving them fresh vegetables and reminding them to practice safety in regard to COVID.”

A White Hall resident, Nelson knows which pockets of the community are home to low-income families. He intentionally seeks out those in need, with a focus toward helping different families each month.

Nelson said volunteers began vegetable distributions in September and have continued each month, skipping January due to severe cold weather. Residents in Burkville, Benton, Mossess, Hayneville, Black Belt, White Hall, Fort Deposit, Hope Hull, Gordonville, and Trichum communities have received the fresh vegetables which are vital for maintaining good health and managing chronic diseases.

“I try to find low-income families,” Nelson said. “We travel around. When we see people, we stop and let them know what we have. By doing this, we also give them information about COVID-19 and remind them to continue to be safe.”

Nelson coordinates COVID-19 outreach activities in Lowndes County to reach individuals who are often overlooked. At each event he passes out information along with t-shirts, masks, and hand sanitizer.

“We’re letting people know that COVID-19 is still here,” Nelson said. “We are trying to let people know that even though the numbers are down, we need to continue to practice good, healthy relationships, keep ourselves sanitized, and do those basic things that we sometimes take for granted, such as using our mask and being careful around other people.”

Since September, the partnership has distributed 80 bags of fresh vegetables and more than 400 masks. Around 1500 residents have received COVID-19 information.

Volunteer Robert Greene joined the effort after retiring from the steel industry in 2013.

“I decided to devote my time to helping other people, especially people who are less fortunate than me,” Greene said. “We try to help different people every time, people that really need it.”

RAVE² volunteers attend local events, like the Hayneville Christmas parade, where they administer COVID-19 vaccines and boosters to combat COVID-19 and pandemic-related issues.

For more information, contact Arthur Nelson at a.nelson123@charter.net or (334) 315-3141.