Over the past year, amid the daunting challenges of a global pandemic, communities across the United States have been indefatigable in their pursuit of improved public health outcomes. Their focus has primarily been on addressing COVID-19 vaccinations and other related issues. In this blog post, I would like to take a moment to recognize the remarkable efforts of these communities and share some significant milestones that have been achieved.
At the heart of these efforts is the 2113 program. This innovative initiative has brought together five key convening organizations with the shared objective of facilitating capacity-building within communities with specific social vulnerabilities.
The PHI-RISE team is among the many organizations that have risen to the occasion. They have diligently provided technical assistance to ten communities dispersed across the country, helping them navigate the complexities of public health during a pandemic.
Our collaboration with PHI-RISE stakeholders has centered around four critical questions spanning formative and summative elements. They are:
- What forms of support were created for minority, rural, and low-income communities to respond, recover, and build resilience? How does this contribute to an increased Civic Capacity for change?
- How effectively were racial and ethnic minorities reached with COVID-related messages?
- What have been the vaccination rates for vulnerable populations in highly impacted regions?
- How have socially vulnerable populations accessed healthcare and social services?
I’m thrilled to report that the efforts of these communities have yielded some remarkable “wins.” These include:
● Unprecedented and consistent growth in general and relational capacities within and between the communities. The growth has been so robust that it has touched all communities involved.
● Over 20,000 people have been vaccinated, and we’ve reached over 600,000 people with vital vaccination messaging.
● An impressive improvement in vaccine equity has been achieved in four of the nine communities, a feat that is particularly noteworthy given the high Social Deprivation Index (SDI) in these communities.
Community health workers (CHWs) and other influential messengers have been instrumental in these achievements. Their roles in promoting vaccinations and communicating critical information have been diverse and innovative. For instance, in one CA-based community, bilingual toolkits, songs, and comics were distributed through CHWs and community organizations to enhance understanding and acceptance of the vaccine. A southeastern team took a different approach, utilizing electronic and printed resources, presentations, and meetings to distribute materials to faith leaders, men’s shelters, and mothers’ support groups.
For example, workshops were held to equip messengers with the necessary skills to address topics such as “credible messengers” and “talking points.” This empowered them to increase collective impact, change narratives, and address system issues effectively.
In parallel with these communication strategies, communities have also prioritized other critical areas such as healthcare access, food security, and emergency preparedness. Initiatives like mobile library events, emergency food pantries, and flu vaccination events have been set up, displaying the all-encompassing approach these communities have taken to tackle the crisis.
In conclusion, the past year has shown the power of grassroots efforts and community engagement in improving public health outcomes. By equipping influential messengers with the necessary resources and skills, these communities have provided accurate information about COVID-19 and vaccinations, demonstrating inspiring resilience and unity in the face of adversity.