Decreased vaccination rates can also be attributed to a lack of accessibility, according to Bel Kelly-Russo, a program associate at ImmunizeVA, a project of the Institute for Public Health and Innovation.
It boils down to access: securing an appointment and affording the shot, Kelly-Russo said.
“I would say that there’s fatigue, kind of, on the system itself,” Kelly-Russo said, including confusion around vaccine billing and distribution.
For example, pediatric offices face high costs to store vaccines for those under the age of 5 years old, which have lower COVID-19 vaccination rates, according to Kelly-Russo.
Bel Kelly-Russo, IPHI’s program associate, discusses the potential reasons for a decrease in vaccine rates with the Virginian Pilot.
Mes a mes, Emely Baez-Salazar recibe con una sonrisa alentadora a personas de escasos recursos de los condados de Chesterfield y Richmond que requieren atención médica. Emely se comunica fluidamente en español y en inglés, para ayudar a residentes a comprender la importancia de las vacunas y cómo hacerse pruebas para detectar enfermedades crónicas, como, por ejemplo: presión arterial alta y diabetes. Si bien, una de sus prioridades es conectar a las personas para ayudarlas a vivir una vida más saludable usando los recursos disponibles; su primer objetivo es generar confianza, es decir, ayudar a las personas a comprender que ella es una aliada y que tienen a su disposición atención médica segura y confiable.
Báez-Salazar no es médico ni enfermera, sino una Promotora de Salud Certificada con experiencia integral en el sistema de salud. Ella tiene experiencia facilitando el uso del sistema electrónico de salud, especialmente a personas de bajos ingresos, y por ende vulnerables…
If your doctor said, “There are comorbidities that will affect your outcome,” many people would not understand what that means or what they need to do to change their outcome. Fortunately, Virginia has an important group of people making healthcare services more accessible and understandable: Community Health Workers.
This week happens to be Community Health Worker (CHW) Awareness Week, a first-ever national observance to raise awareness about the role of CHWs in the healthcare system and their impact. These caring and committed professionals – also known as outreach workers, family advocates and promotores de salud and other titles – are making a positive mark in Virginia and beyond.
CHWs are not clinicians, nor are they social workers. They are one part advocate, one part coach, and one part teacher. Most importantly, as they are acting in all of these parts, CHWs are considered a trusted source of information. CHWs serve as….
The U.S. Department of Agriculture defines food insecurity as a “lack of consistent access to enough food for an active, healthy life.” Large swaths of Greater Washington faced some level of food insecurity in 2021, according to the Capital Area Food Bank’s 2022 Hunger report…
Julia Groenfeldt, IPHI’s program manager, discusses filling in the gaps to improve access to healthy foods in a Q&A with Washington Business Journal.
What is community power-building, and what is its impact on reducing disparities? It highlights and accentuates the voices of community members and organizations most affected by decisions that ultimately affect health and health equity.
Mike Royster, IPHI’s vice president, joins the Public Health Alliance‘s PHA Power Bites series to discuss “The Role of Community Power-Building in Reducing Disparities.”
National Community Health Worker Awareness Week (NCHWAW) is here! From August 28 to September 1, NCHWAW is a transformative campaign to raise awareness about community health workers’ (CHWs) role and impact. The National Association of Community Health Workers (NACHW) launched this national event to recognize CHW’s invaluable contributions, promote authentic partnerships, and advocate for policies to uplift the profession. IPHI will join NACHW to commemorate, celebrate, and collaborate in highlighting CHWs’ critical work in advancing public health.
In honor of this week, IPHI’s CHWs for a Healthy VA initiative presents, “Our Community, Our Story: Community Health Workers Making an Impact Across Virginia.”
Monday, August 28 – CHWs are Champions of Change
CHWs are powerful change agents because they actively drive transformative impacts in healthcare and communities. As shown in the Our Community, Our Story video, CHWs empower individuals, families, and communities to take control of their health in under-resourced areas, whether rural or urban. CHWs work tirelessly to promote positive behavioral changes and healthier lifestyles. IPHI’s CHW initiatives equip CHWs with the knowledge, tools, and support they need to make a difference in community members’ lives. By addressing social determinants of health, promoting health equity, and providing personalized support, IPHI’s CHW programs invest in the CHW workforce to create lasting changes for vulnerable populations.
Those with first-hand experience of CHW support and care can attest to their impact on the individuals and communities they serve. CHWs create long-term change through genuine connections and dedicated efforts, making them indispensable to the community. Trudy is one of many inspiring success stories:
Trudy, a senior citizen in Richmond, was excited to interview for a job as a bus monitor with Richmond Public Schools but realized she would have to take three buses to get to work by 6 a.m. Not only is taking three buses a grueling way to start the day, but the GRTC buses don’t start running until 6 a.m. Luckily for Trudy, her CHW advocate, Bre Peoples, was determined to find a way to help her. After discovering that Trudy wasn’t old enough to get transportation help through Senior Connections, Bre remembered that GRTC had a morning caravan. The morning caravan was a perfect solution that Trudy might never have discovered.
Other tangible differences that CHWs make for healthier communities include:
CHWs for a Healthy VA sent over 6,000 referrals to hospitals, food banks, housing assistance programs, and more in the past two years.
DC & PGC Gets Vaxxed! connected 400+ community members to get their COVID-19 boosters.
IPHI expresses our heartfelt appreciation to CHWs and those at IPHI – your unwavering dedication and compassion make a significant difference in the lives of countless people. We thank our CHWs for their contributions, which include:
These CHWs are valuable IPHI members, and our work would not be possible without them. While we celebrate CHWs’ efforts, we also recognize the importance of prioritizing personal well-being to avoid burnout. Self-care is essential for CHWs to continue their work. Save the date for the Project ECHO: CHW Community of Practice training session on October 5, whichwill focus on self-care strategies to improve resilience and overall health.
We want to acknowledge that many people outside of the public health field may be unfamiliar with CHWs. To bridge this gap, we created a short and engaging video that shows some of the areas CHWs help. Share this video to help us raise awareness and celebrate CHWs importance to public health:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – August 28, 2023 For More Information, Contact: Communications Director Taya Jarman, APR 202-747-3541 [email protected]
Washington, DC – The first National Community Health Workers (CHW) Awareness Week takes place Aug. 28-Sept. 1. The Institute for Public Health Innovation (IPHI) is using the observance to highlight the importance of local CHWs in advancing health outcomes in the community.
CHWs, along with other role titles like outreach worker, family advocate and promotores de salud, are frontline public health workers who are trusted members of their communities. Through shared experiences of race, ethnicity, socio-economic status, health conditions, gender identity or other attributes, CHWs play a critical role to connect individuals to healthcare and safety net resources. They increase diversity and trust in health and social systems and improve access to and utilization of services.
“CHWs are making a positive impact in our communities,” said IPHI Director, Abby R. Charles. “Many residents of our region continue to experience negative health outcomes that are socially created, unjust and preventable. These compassionate and committed individuals are helping our region’s residents navigate health systems and overcome barriers so they can live healthier lives. This week and every week, we are thankful for the work CHWs are doing to advance health equity. We also highlight the need to sustain this workforce in our region”
IPHI, a nonprofit that develops multi-sector partnerships and innovative solutions to improve the public’s health and well-being, partners with CHWs to ensure equitable health outcomes in the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia. IPHI CHW Sawa Kamara said, “I’ve worked for four years at the George Washington Hospital as a CHW. During my time, I was able to help hundreds of patients navigate the healthcare system. For those who are unfamiliar with it, the healthcare structure can be daunting and bewildering.”
Studies show that CHWs help reduce barriers to healthcare, improve health knowledge and chronic disease management, and reduce overall medical costs. CHWs work at local healthcare institutions, community housing organizations, social service agencies and nonprofits that help connect community members with local resources. IPHI estimates that there are over 1100 certified CHWs in the region, with many more pursuing certifications.
IPHI maintains various programs focused on training, continuing education opportunities, financial support and mentorships to support the CHW workforce.
The Community Health Worker Academy is a training institute dedicated to expanding the public health workforce in the District of Columbia, South Maryland, and Northern Virginia.
IPHI worked with community partners to create a Community Health Worker Registry, an online hub to connect Virginia’s CHW workforce and share educational and networking opportunities.
More than $13 million in grants from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has allowed us to support the hiring and training of 31 CHWs in the commonwealth. The CHWs for a Healthy VA program is exploring innovative financing strategies to help build and sustain the CHW workforce long-term.
IPHI recently interviewed CHWs across the state about their work. The organization will premiere the short documentary on its YouTube page on Monday, Aug. 28.
For more information on IPHI’s latest focus areas, services, and initiatives, visit www.institutephi.org.
About Institute for Public Health Innovation (IPHI)
IPHI develops multi-sector partnerships and innovative solutions to improve the public’s health and well-being across the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia. IPHI’s work strengthens health systems and policy, enhances conditions that promote health, and builds community capacity to ensure equitable health opportunities. Nationally, IPHI is one of over 40 public health institutes and a member of the National Network of Public Health Institutes. For more information about IPHI, visit: www.institutephi.org and follow IPHI on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram | @InstitutePHI.
Seven years after my father passed, I recently experienced an unexpected emotion: Hope.
His death at the youthful age of 52 came as a shock. He was my best friend, cheerleader and confidante, and despite being a marathon runner and all-around healthy person, he was diagnosed with brain cancer. His prognosis of six months jarred our family, sending us into a tailspin of clinical research trials and medical jargon that our family struggled to understand.
Being an undergraduate student of public health at the time, I frantically hurled myself into self-study. Maybe if I could understand the intricacies of a National Institutes of Health study, I could figure out how to help my dad. But these epiphanies never came, and after just two months of illness my dad succumbed to the cancer, ultimately becoming just another statistic high-lighted in my textbooks.
In the years since, I have dabbled in different careers focused on helping others, ultimately returning to the field of public health. I believe these altruistic efforts to be an attempt at emulating my father’s goodwill.
An advocate in every sense of the word, my dad was a legal representative for Vietnam veterans whose children had been born with Spina Bifida, a result of the Agent Orange chemical inhaled during their service. Although he had not spent any time in military service himself, he had given every fiber of his being to ensure these veterans were treated with dignity and respect, as well as fairly compensated. Ironically, his demise was due to a glioblastoma, an illness commonly linked to military service exposure to Agent Orange. As the years have gone by since his death, this paradox has remained a particularly harsh reality.
The other day, though, I felt a deep hope for others whose loved ones are suffering the same diagnosis as my dad. One story in particular caught my eye: A daughter whose time with her father since the onset of his illness has been nearly twice as long as doctors expected. This is due, in large part, to the advent of a new and experimental peptide mimic immunotherapeautic vaccine, also known as the “cancer vaccine.”
If we believe the adage, “the personal is the political,” then the following is also true: The personal is public. Public health impacts each one of us, and vice versa, the decisions we make as individuals impact others. I am happy to have stuck with public health, and to now be able to advocate for vaccination. While I know it is ultimately a personal choice to vaccinate oneself or one’s children, I hope that for the sake of the public good, you will embrace the values that my dad carried with him to the end and consider the impact your decision has on the health of others.
The decision to vaccinate is a decision rooted in caring about others. Herd immunity is what keeps our most vulnerable people, those undergoing chemotherapy like my dad, safe and able to live as normal a life as possible.
August is National Immunization Awareness Month, and I am choosing to use it to highlight the existence of innovative new vaccines, such as those targeting glioblastomas, as well as vaccines being developed to prevent breast cancer and reduce the risk of melanoma spread. I dream of a future in which children won’t lose parents suddenly to these cruel illnesses and I know that my work is currently contributing to a world in which parents don’t lose children to vaccine-preventable diseases like measles, pertussis, and even HPV- related cancers.
Funny enough, one of my most vibrant memories from my pre-teen years was how adamant my dad was about taking my sister and me to get the HPV vaccine. This act on his behalf was an act of caring. Likewise, I hope we choose to care about one another, because whether you want to believe in them or not, vaccines are the single most life-saving advancement of medical science.
More than anything perhaps, they are a source of abiding hope for our future.
Bel Kelly-Russo is the program associate at ImmunizeVA. She can be reached at[email protected].
During National Immunization Awareness Month, IPHI’s Senior Program Manager discusses the drop in kindergarten immunization rates in a WDBJ7 interview.
People have been afraid of vaccines or had concerns and questions since the very first vaccine for smallpox was invented. But in turn, those questions, those doubts and their skepticisms have led us to have a really robust and rigorous safety monitoring program for vaccines.
In an interview with the Intersection Magazine, IPHI’s Program Associate Heaven Jordan discusses innovative strategies to tackle food waste and support local communities in Prince George’s County.
The Prince George’s Food Equity Council hasn’t always done the job that it is doing now (connecting communities to organizations that provide them with food). Heaven Jordan, the program associate at The Prince George’s County Equity Council, said initially the organization was focused on policy. But when the Covid-19 pandemic storm slowly infected people – causing death, businesses to shut down in the county, and increasing poverty– they jumped in, helping other communities provide healthy food options to residents living in food-insecure neighborhoods.