On September 16, 2021, we hosted a media briefing on the COVID-19 African American Education & Outreach Partnership in collaboration with the Congressional Black Caucus Institute, the National Minority Quality Forum, and Kaiser Permanente.
This short video features inspiring highlights and key takeaways. Speakers include Congresswoman Barbara Lee, Congressman James Clyburn, Stephanie Ledesma of Kaiser Foundation Health Plan and Hospitals, Rev. Dr. Jacqueline A. Thompson of Allen Temple Baptist Church, Dr. Oliver Brooks of the Watts HealthCare Foundation, Gloria Warner of Beaufort Jasper Health Clinic, Keshee Dozier-Smith of Rural Health Medical Program, Gary Puckrein of the National Minority Quality Forum, James Head of the East Bay Community Foundation, and moderator Paulette Brown-Hinds.
Founded in 2020, the partnership is a community-centered, public-philanthropic effort. The partnership combines the local standing, trust, and reach of community-based organizations, with the resources and convening power of philanthropic partners.
Communities of color have been disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, mirroring the larger structural racism in society. With the highly contagious Delta variant now accounting for more than 80 to 85 percent of new/emerging cases, particularly among the unvaccinated, we are in another phase of rapid spread. The numbers reflect two starkly different realities playing out across the United States:
Age-adjusted COVID-19 hospitalization rates remain about four times higher for Black and Latinx people versus white Americans. Pacific Islanders, Latino, Black and Indigenous Americans all have COVID-19 death rates that are at least double that of white Americans.
These inequitable disparities are rooted in underlying, systemic issues in healthcare services, past and present. Throughout last year, economically disadvantaged communities of color have been hardest hit. The East Bay Community Foundation (EBCF) in partnership with Congresswoman Barbara Lee’s office, the Congressional Black Institute (CBCI), and supported by Kaiser Permanente, has worked to bring additional resources to the table for local leaders and organizations who were ready to step in with community-led solutions.
The COVID-19 African American Education and Outreach Partnership is a collaboration between philanthropy, the federal government and grassroots community-based organizations to support local leaders and fund organizations working to tackle disinformation and increase vaccine access.
Through this initiative, EBCF’s community-based organization partners are running mobile vaccination clinics, helping patients overcome barriers to vaccination such as child care and transportation needs; tackling misinformation, disinformation, and oftentimes no information; and ensuring vaccine access in trusted community spaces. Extensive data tracked by the National Minority Quality Forum over the last year show that these responsive, local, ground-up solutions are promising, and can serve as a model across the country for investing in working-class BIPOC communities. This groundwork will become even more critical as we face the ongoing Delta wave, and possible future waves, of COVID-19 variants.
To date, the Partnership distributed $2.4 million to 12 CBOs working with about 30 faith and community groups in California, Georgia, Mississippi, South Carolina, Alabama and Washington DC. Cumulatively, this initiative has made a significant, tangible difference in increasing vaccine access and building vaccine confidence, and in some counties, per the NMQF data tracking, we see a rise in vaccination rates by as much as 50 percent. In states like Alabama and Georgia, we were able to reach rural working poor Black communities well before the government did.
NMQF’s extensive data tracking have also found up to 10% increase in vaccination rates in the neighborhoods in which our CBOs actively worked, compared to those without active CBO outreach. In some states, like California and South Carolina, the vaccination rates reported by our CBOs is 10% higher than the state averages.
In the months since the vaccine roll out, the CBOs have developed multiple projects, proactively crafting and amplifying accurate, messages to counter disinformation, increase vaccine acceptance in Black communities, and ultimately inform federal legislation to build a racially and economically just health care system. CBOs have played an instrumental role in promoting the many public incentives being offered to improve vaccination rates so far, from free Uber rides to lottery tickets and childcare.
Beyond Numbers: Legislative Impact
Beyond funding CBOs to build trust, increase vaccine access, and tackle disinformation right now, this project has a longer-term goal and vision: to be a demonstration project at its core, shaped by legislation put forward by Black women legislators, including Representatives Barbara Lee, Karen Bass, and Ayanna Pressley. This includes the COVID Community Care Act and the Anti-Racism in Public Health Act. The feedback offered by Partnership CBOs will go on to inform the design and implementation of future federal programs, modeling bottom-up leadership.
Another key example of legislative impact is the Community-Based Workforce for COVID-19 Vaccine Outreach grant, a $250 million grant opportunity to address systemic health disparities and mobilize community outreach workers, secured through the American Rescue Plan (ARP) by legislators like Representative Lee. Ultimately, these pieces of legislation strengthen community health organizations, gather reliable disaggregated data on health outcomes, and develop long-term interventions will make our public health care system more equitable.
Congresswoman Barbara Lee on this issue: “The impact of COVID-19 on Black and Brown communities has made the legacy of systemic racism in our public health system impossible to ignore. In order to tackle this virus, we must work with trusted messengers and community-based organizations at the local level to deliver life-saving public health information and care. I’m proud to have led the effort in Congress along with Senator Elizabeth Warren to secure funding for community-based organizations through the COVID Community Care Act and the COVID-19 relief packages. As the Delta variant continues to surge throughout the country, this work is more important than ever to build trust in vaccines, especially in communities that are medically underserved. The East Bay Community Foundation and Community Based Organizations around the country are critical in this fight against COVID-19. I remain committed to being a steadfast partner to them in Congress.”
Stephanie Ledesma, Interim Senior Vice President, Community Health Programs for Kaiser Permanente: “Increasing vaccination will end this pandemic. At Kaiser Permanente we believe we have an imperative to leverage our voice, partnerships, and standing in our communities to help prevent the further spread of COVID-19 that has so disproportionately affected communities of color. We remain committed to supporting the important work of community-based organizations such as EBCF and its partners to encourage vaccination, address misinformation and remove barriers to vaccine access.”