DHR Health and DHR Health Institute for Research and Development have arranged partnerships with other hospitals in this region of southern Texas to establish a protocol to treat COVID-19 patients using donated plasma from those who recovered from the COVID-19 infection. With a large Hispanic population, this effort dovetails with The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), who has encouraged recovered COVID-19 patients to donate plasma for use in expanded access protocols as well as ongoing clinical trials due to the severe COVID-19 pandemic. Donors will receive a financial stipend as in addition to offering expanded use access DHR Health Institute for Research and Development is conducting clinical trials.
Social Determinants of Health & The Deadly COVID-19 Pathogen
TrialSite News reported that COVID-19 is killing Blacks in America at a horrific rate. Hispanic (Latino) death rates appear higher as well. Reports out of the Western States—where Hispanics frequently represent the largest minority group—data suggests deaths rates could be higher as well—such as recently reported in Utah.
DHR operates in the McAllen-Edinburg-Mission metro area with a population of about 900,000. Part of the Rio Grande Valley Border region, this region, with the lowest median household income, literally is the poorest metro area within the United States. The social determinants of health matter in regions such as these as socio-economic, demographic and cultural factors impact not only access to quality healthcare but also good health itself. Obesity rates are high and associated health challenges undoubtedly are present. The region, straddling the Mexican border, is predominantly Hispanic—for example, McAllen, Texas is about 85% Hispanic.
The Region is Scrutinized by the East
On public health care expenditure, McAllen, Texas, was scrutinized by the press (New Yorker) in “The Cost Conundrum,” which reported on the factors that contribute to the cost of health care in America. This particular region, according to author Atul Gawande, represented the highest taxpayer-sponsored spending per beneficiary in the United States. For a myriad of reasons health costs per recipient are higher here (as were obesity and diabetes the author found)—rates of infant mortality, HIV and tobacco use were lower than the national average. McAllen has an unfortunate ranking of the most obese metropolitan area in the country by 2012, when 38.5% of the adult population were categorized as obese.
Although, as of this writing, we are presently in the midst of this horrific pandemic; no conclusive statements can be declared. But based on accumulating data and reports, it appears that those with preexisting conditions, elderly, as well as Blacks and Hispanics face higher death rates from SARS-CoV-2.
Upbeat Spirits for this Youthful Region
Yet the region has rapidly transformed its economy into a major trading hub. Unemployment, north of 20% in the 1990s, came down to about 7.7 % by 2005. With a low cost of living, growing young and working age population—that wants to work—and a trade corridor to Northern Mexico—the heart of that nation’s manufacturing centers, the region also represents a place where upward mobility and a high quality of life is truly possible for nearly all. Crime rates in places like McAllen are incredibly low. Where does American get its drive for competitive global economic positioning—not just elite coastal hubs producing new technology and scientific-based products, but also its up and coming manufacturing and trading hubs represented by regions such as McAllen-Edinburg-Mission. Perhaps regions like these are more important than many realize?
Plasma Collection in the McAllen-Edinburg-Mission Metro Area
DHR, which opened its doors in 2003 as the area’s only physician-owned hospitals, now represents one of the largest in the nation. DHR Health has partnered with Vitalant, a FDA approved blood center with facilities in McAllen and Harlingen to collect plasma from identified donors, reports The Monitor. The actual collection will occur using plasmapheresis.
Clinical Research Protocols
This entire process, guided by the DHR Health Institute for Research and Development Institutional Review Board, involves a protocol deemed a unique opportunity to offer an alternative treatment option to help patients suffering from severe COVID-19 cases.
DHR Health Institute for Research and Development will utilize some of the plasma sample for research studies to improve the providers’ understanding and knowledge of SARS-CoV-2.
DHR Health Institute for Research and Development
DHR Health Institute for Research and Development brings advanced clinical research as a care option—or what they refer to as Advanced Clinical Care. Clinical research helps many in the region whose standard treatments have failed. They were established as a nonprofit 501(c)(3) to service as an independent research institute with a focus on enhancing translational and clinical research in critical areas of need through collaboration with investigators at DHR Health and other affiliated academic and non-academic partners.
Access to High Quality Health and Advanced Care
DHR Health Institute for Research & Development commits to offer access to innovative and advanced clinical care models for physicians for the treatment of patients and to facilitate development of “personalized” clinical care models for the Hispanic population in the Rio Grande Valley region. Hispanics make up the largest U.S. ethnic minority at 52 million (16.7%) and growing faster than other populations. Understanding and developing precision treatments for this demographic represents an important mission.
Call to Action: Do you live in the Rio Grande Valley area and know of someone who has recovered from COVID-19? Mention the DHR initiative. They can be reached by phone at (956) 215-3166 or email at [email protected]