Utah DHHS report acknowledges much work remains to address health inequities
The Utah Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) said that certain racial/ethnic minority groups continue to lag behind in vaccination and booster uptake.
According to state COVID-19 case data, Black/African American, Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander, and Hispanic/Latino community members have lower rates of vaccination and booster doses compared to other racial and ethnic minority groups and the mean rate for all Utahns.
The report analyzed the periods from when the first doses of vaccines (December 2020 through March 2022) and boosters (October 2021 through March 2022) became available and found that Black/African American, Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander, and Hispanic/Latino individuals also had higher rates of hospitalization and deaths than other groups.
“Our goal with this report is to recognize the impact community health workers (CHWs) continue to have in helping their communities throughout the state of Utah,” said the DHHS Office of Health Equity. “CHWs are key in building trust and bridging gaps to services in communities, as well as improving the overall health of community members, both physically and mentally.
Moving forward, the CCP project will continue supporting communities in the areas of vaccine promotion and resource connection. Housing and food security are the most significant ongoing needs in Utah’s underserved communities, with households continuing to experience financial stress that limits their ability to pay for rent, mortgage, and food. For many, these preexisting hardships have only been exacerbated by the pandemic. The CCP project will continue to adapt as Utah transitions to a steady state, with more focus on connection to healthcare and long-term equitable access.”
DHHS said the health disparities highlight the ongoing importance of the CCP project to address barriers to vaccination experienced by these communities. Utah launched the CCP project in May 2020 to address disparities in COVID-19-related health outcomes among under-resourced communities. The project partners with community-based organizations (CBOs) and local health departments (LHDs) to employ CHWs to serve diverse communities in COVID-19 emergency response.
The report highlighted that CCP has established 4,134 new community partnerships with CBOs and LHDs. The outreach includes efforts in underserved communities on COVID-related vaccination, testing, community surveys, guidance and prevention, and SDOH screening. It also cited that more than 1,100 total doses were administered through mobile vaccine clinics between November 2021 and March 2022.
The department outlined the following 6 strategies to address the lasting impacts of the of COVID-19 pandemic in Utah’s under-resourced communities beyond the current Phase 4:
- Continuing to build community partnerships
- Building community health worker (CHW) capacity
- Improving access to testing and vaccines
- Addressing social needs
- Exercising community outreach and education
- Understanding community experiences
DHHS said it will continue to adapt to community needs as they are identified, link underserved populations to COVID-19 vaccines and low-barriers testing, and assist those who need help through quarantine and isolation with needed resources through Phase 4, which runs through June 2023. The CCP project will continue to coordinate with CBOs and LHDs to provide advocacy, support, and funding to frontline community outreach efforts.