CP27 - The Role of Health Equity Navigators in Improving Access to COVID-19 Vaccines in Latinx Communities Through Community Health Centers
Poster Type: Innovation
Category: Expanding Access to Care and Other Services; Patient and Community Engagement
Issue or Challenge: Vaccine hesitancy is one of the most cited reasons to explain low COVID-19 vaccine uptake among Latinx communities in the United States. AltaMed Health Services is one of the nation’s largest Federally Qualified Health Centers, serving more than 300,000 predominantly Latinx patients in medically underserved communities of southern California. Through this program, we addressed challenges associated with access to vaccine information and appointments for working-class Latinx patients and community members in Orange County, California. Through this approach, we successfully removed barriers that presented initial sources of hesitancy among our patient population, including disinformation and misinformation.
Description of Innovation: Starting in February 2021, AltaMed embarked on a demonstration project to test its Health Equity Navigator model’s effectiveness in improving access to COVID-19 vaccines in its service area. The program is part of the AltaMed Institute for Health Equity’s Undergraduate Medical Education department. It is designed to provide clinical experience to pre-med and other aspiring health professionals. Four Health Equity Navigator positions were pivoted to focus on COVID-19 vaccine engagement, to identify challenges related to underlying social determinants of health, and ultimately to help overcome these challenges. The innovation included three phases. Phase 1: Navigator-led inbound and outbound calls to identified panel of patients meeting initial vaccine eligibility of ages 65+.Phase 2: Inbound calls from patients and community members and outbound calls to non-AltaMed patients based on interests lists provided by community partners. Phase 3: Inbound calls and deployment of a partner community program to streamline appointments for non-patients. During these engagements, health navigators provide information, education, and support, as well as direct assistance to individuals in making appointments for their COVID-19 vaccine.
Impact or Result: Results of our Health Equity Navigator pilot project to increase access to vaccines are as follows: Providing 2,600+ vaccines to highly-vulnerable community members, approximately 50% of whom did not have a medical home. Development and integration of a model to expedite vaccine access for non-clinic patients who lived in our clinic’s service area through community partnerships. Development of a model that can scale medical education programs into a workforce that is ready to advance health equity for pandemic response and recovery. Effectively overcoming vaccine hesitancy by addressing information gaps through culturally concordant education, information, and direct assistance with access.
Replicating this Innovation: Create a pipeline of health navigators who know the community and also have familiarity with navigating systems. This will make it easier for them to address communities’ concerns, in language and terms that resonate with the community. If it is not possible to create a specific pipeline of health navigators, work within the models that already exist in the clinic: community health workers, other forms of patient navigators, and provide specific training on vaccine access and major questions so they can support community members in their process of scheduling.
Gloria Montiel, PhD, Researcher, AltaMed Health Services Corporation
Erick Leyva, Project Coordinator for Undergraduate Medical Education, AltaMed Health Services Corporation