By Dr. Stephanie Adams, Interim Executive Director, Global Health Crisis Coordination Center
According to the CDC, Native American and Native Alaskan persons are 3.3 times more likely, Black persons 2.9 times more likely, and Hispanic persons 2.8 times more likely to be hospitalized for COVID-19 compared with Whites. Even as the nation rounds the curve on coronavirus cases, with levels at their lowest since the start of the pandemic, these health disparities have not diminished. Despite the increased risk of severe COVID-19 outcomes for racial and ethnic minorities, the Kaiser Family Foundation reports that white people have higher vaccine uptake rates than all other groups in nearly every state.
The COVID-19 pandemic did not create the health inequities we see today, but it has exacerbated them. In fact, the CDC has identified systemic racism as a main driver of health disparities in the United States, COVID-related or not. This institutionalized issue and growing socioeconomic divides are key agents that leave underserved communities behind. Lack of access to healthcare and educational resources reinforce the structural problems at hand.
From the beginning of the pandemic, there has been a big push to return to normal in the United States. But given these issues, what does it mean to return to normal?
This is where the Global Health Crisis Coordination Center (GHC3) is working to make a difference. Instead of a return to the same old problems, the GHC3 is working with partners to build a more equitable future. It mobilizes corporations and NGOs to collaborate with federal, state, and local leadership for real-time problem solving and immediate impact during health-related crises, including the current pandemic.
The socioeconomic undervaluing of low-income, Black and Brown communities is at the heart of the fight against health inequity. The first step in addressing those health inequities is the development of strong relationships founded on communication and trust.
To that end, the GHC3 has built upon existing relationships with community leaders, businesses, nonprofit organizations, and government entities in the metro-Atlanta area to deliver COVID-19 testing and vaccines to underserved areas through Community Health and Vaccine Events.
By partnering with KIPP Charter Schools and Carver High School in Atlanta, the GHC3 hosted seven different Community Health Events throughout the spring, reaching over 150 families per event. With the help of Microsoft, health information packets were distributed, providing critical information on COVID-19 vaccines and other health issues pertinent to the local community, such as diabetes and hypertension. At each event, meals were supplied and access to testing and/or vaccines provided on site through the generous assistance of the Atlanta Community Food Bank, ID Tech Molecular, and Walmart.
A few miles north of KIPP and Carver, the GHC3 hosted three vaccine events at the Misión Católica de Cristo Rey in partnership with the Mission itself, CORE Response, Walmart, and Compassion Kitchen to immunize and feed over 350 congregants and community members. Culturally relevant Spanish-language vaccine information sheets were created especially for the Mission’s congregants to answer their most pressing questions and provide them with accurate information on the COVID-19 vaccines. Having people vaccinate in their spaces of comfort was key to overcoming hesitancy in this tight-knit immigrant community.
Through the GHC3’s COVID-19 Vaccines Information Equity and Demand Creation project (COVIED) — a partnership with the CDC, Johns Hopkins University, Emory University, Morehouse School of Medicine, and cutting-edge technology enterprises like RIWI — a series of listening sessions were conducted for the KIPP Charter Schools, Carver High School, and the Misión de Cristo Rey communities. These sessions provided critical information and insight into the participants’ interests, concerns, intents, and questions regarding COVID-19 immunization. This valuable knowledge will be a key factor in the development of future vaccine-related educational materials. By continuing in partnership with KIPP Charter Schools, Carver High School, the Misión de Cristo Rey, as well as other schools and houses of worship, the GHC3 intends to empower local underserved communities by further facilitating access to education and immunization.
There is power in partnership, but also in lasting relationships. The GHC3 is committed to the communities it serves and responsive to their changing needs. Connection was first made with KIPP Schools through GHC3’s early pandemic program, Back 2 School, focused on helping get students and teachers safely back into the classroom. That connection with KIPP Schools was built upon to help vaccinate, educate, and feed their families at the GHC3 Community Health Events.
Similarly, GHC3’s Back 2 Worship program brought together a diverse group of faith leaders throughout the Atlanta area to discuss how to reunite congregations and worship safely. This has since evolved into a larger and broader initiative, the Worship Action Coalition, aimed at increasing vaccine uptake and combatting vaccine hesitancy in congregations at increased risk for severe COVID-19 outcomes. It was through the Worship Action Coalition that it was possible to create the partnerships needed to host a successful vaccine site at the Misión de Cristo Rey.
The GHC3 is truly humbled by the work its partners are doing every day to solve health inequities in underserved communities, and it is proud to work closely with such amazing organizations and individuals on these life-saving initiatives. If you are interested in collaborating with the GHC3 or would like to learn more about its projects, please visit www.globalhealthc3.org. Additional material for this article was provided by Ethan Bakal.
The Global Health Crisis Coordination Center (GHC3) is a division of the Center for Global Health Innovation which exists to advance global health equity by promoting and facilitating collaboration amongst business, academia, non-profits and government organizations and linking them with partners in the US and other countries to drive impactful innovation.