Health equity after pandemic, infectious diseases part of global symposium in San Antonio

SAN ANTONIO – Some of the world’s health leaders met in San Antonio this week for a symposium focused on health equity in communities.

Texas Biomedical Research Institute hosted the third annual Global Health Symposium at the San Antonio Botanical Gardens.

“It’s really important for us to continue to talk about the effects the pandemic had on us,” said Rebeca Clay-Flores, Pct. 1 commissioner for Bexar County. “For those of us who have been in this field, we’ve been talking about the inequities in the southern sector of Bexar County before the pandemic, and of course, the pandemic made people realize that it’s not something we can ignore any longer.”

Clay-Flores was the moderator for one of Friday’s panels. She said COVID-19 put a spotlight on several inequities facing our communities.

“The pandemic statistically brought to light some of the equity and injustices that we’ve been talking about all along, including things like the digital divide, lack of access to health care, where all the hospitals are located in this community, things of that nature,” said Clay-Flores.

Clay-Flores said Bexar County is already taking steps to address everything from public to mental health issues in underserved areas.

“That’s why at Bexar County, we pushed for $60 million for public health, and we’re starting our own public health division,” said Clay-Flores. “Thirty million dollars of that is going to go to a new public health building that’s going to be next to the UHC hospital that’s going to be built on the South Side across from Texas A&M. This is something that we are going to continue to keep in the forefront of our county.”

About 500 attendees participated in the hybrid symposium hosted virtually and in person. Officials with Texas Biomed said part of the symposium is to bring together world leaders to discuss investment, collaboration and research being done to prepare for the threat and impact of infectious diseases.

“We’re working across communities in Texas, particularly looking at communities that are predisposed to infectious diseases, looking at co-morbidities that predispose communities to infectious disease. These are things that involve inflammation like diabetes, cancers,” said Dr. Akudo Anyanwu, Texas Biomed VP for Development, MD, MPH.

Anwanyu said this is an opportunity to gather some of the brightest medical and research minds to try and solve global health issues and build trust in the science behind vaccines and other treatments.

“We have an education program where we reach out to the community so that they can trust science. When they hear about a vaccine, they understand why it’s been developed and why it’s good for them,” said Anyanwu. “Until our health care providers or people who are in science and biomedical research can develop trust with the community, the therapeutics and all that will not be as effective. And so that’s why we focus on all of that.”


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