Suzie Stroud began fighting back against COVID-19 even before Iowa had its first confirmed case. As the Social Worker for the Pacific Islander Health Project based out of Crescent Community Health Center, she works directly with Marshallese and other Pacific Islander communities in the region by trying to increase their access to healthcare and connections to community resources. Early in March, Suzie and the rest of her team realized that they needed to prepare for what could be a devastating outbreak. They held informational classes with Pacific Islander community members on the virus which included
discussing symptoms, health recommendations, and how to quarantine. She and her colleagues continued to work on translating documents and educating community members on the new reality that was starting to hit Dubuque while co-workers strived to ensure patients had prescriptions filled so they would not have to come into the clinic.
Due to restricted patient interaction and several organizations and agencies cancelling meetings, at the end of March Suzie was furloughed. But she stayed connected to the COVID response through an appointment to the Dubuque County Board of Health. She led the Dubuque County Board of Health’s taskforce on masks, working with colleagues at Dubuque County and Key City Creative to distribute masks from Dubuque Mattress, where they handed out over 9,000 masks across a nine day period. She also worked with staff at the City of Dubuque to get CDC regulations translated into Marshallese and Spanish so Dubuque residents had the information to use their masks effectively and safely. Suzie has since returned to the Pacific Islander Health Project, where she continues to work with local populations to keep our community safe.
Suzie acknowledges that the work ahead will be difficult. “COVID is changing how we interact with people,” she says. “It’s changing everything.” Cooking classes designed to assist and empower healthy eating had to be canceled at Convivium, and discussions around significant adjustments to the Pacific Islander Health Project’s community education program are already happening. But she is taking inspiration from the communities she works with. “The Pacific Islanders are resilient. They are adapting, and they are finding ways of staying connected to each other. We need to take a note from that page.” Suzie believes our Pacific Islander neighbors are setting an example for all of us as we strive to keep Dubuque healthy, safe, and vibrant.