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Neighborhood pop-up testing works to bridge health gaps in marginalized communities

MADISON (WKOW) -- Some of the hardest hit communities in the COVID-19 pandemic are also some of those least likely to seek or access testing services.

That's why nonprofit organizations across Dane County have been working with public health officials to get that testing to their neighborhoods.

One of those leaders is Tutankhamum Assad, locally known as "Coach," the CEO of the Mellowhood Foundation, based in Madison's Meadowood neighborhood.

"Black health matters and that's where I'm going to leave it," he said.

Assad said that was the motivation behind setting up a temporary testing facility at Orchard Ridge United Church, ensuring his community had access to public health services.

"We're definitely the people that feel the brunt of every pandemic health issue because it crushes up because of the way we're made to live in this country," he said.

Coronavirus has been no different. Despite making up seven percent of Wisconsin's population, a quarter of the people who have died so far were Black.

Assad said there are a number of reasons behind those numbers including poverty, a distrust in medicine due to decades of racial bias and discrimination in the field and a higher prevalence of pre-existing conditions, due to historical gaps in healthcare.

"We have to advocate for our own safety and health," he said.

Assad wasn't the only one. Michael Johnson with the Boys and Girls Club worked with other community organizers to set up a series of tests targeting other marginalized communities.

Sarah McGrew

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