The City of Chula Vista, in partnership with UC San Diego’s Community Health, will receive $4 million as part of the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Minority Health’s new initiative Advancing Health Literacy to Enhance Equitable Community Responses to COVID-19.
Over $2 million will be allocated to community-based organizations and health clinics to deliver culturally inclusive COVID-19 health literacy initiatives that support vaccination, testing, and contact tracing efforts among racial, ethnic minority and other socially vulnerable communities.
“COVID-19 highlighted the challenges we already had in engaging and serving BIPOC communities and it resulted in unequal access to testing, contact tracing, vaccination, and other efforts to mitigate the impact of the virus,” said Vice Chair Nora Vargas, County of San Diego Board of Supervisors, First District. “We look forward to engaging with and learning from residents in meaningful ways and partnering with community-based organizations and stakeholders to ensure equity as we find solutions to these issues that impact our communities.”
“We look forward to centering the work within cities that have the highest concentrations of racial and ethnic minority population, engaging with and learning from residents in meaningful ways, and partnering with ethnic, community-based organizations and other key local stakeholders to mitigate impacts of the pandemic while ensuring equity and inclusivity.”
The San Diego Advancing Minority Health Literacy Program will be coordinated by a community-centered research team comprised of community stakeholders, including local city and county government, provider networks, and community-based organizations, health centers, and resident leaders. Key partner cities (Chula Vista, El Cajon, Escondido, Imperial Beach, La Mesa, and National City), will implement the initiative with community partners, such as San Diego Refugee Communities Coalition and UC San Diego Health. The project will be powered via the digital health tool, Streetwyze. San Diego State University School of Public Health will provide program evaluation support.
“We look forward to collaborating with our partners, including community-based organizations who work with our residents day in and day out,” said Chula Vista Mayor Mary Casillas Salas. “South County was hit especially hard during the pandemic and this important effort will advance health equity, which is a major focus for community and city leaders.”
“Our community-based approach to health literacy makes the program much stronger because community members and researchers will come together and inform each other’s work,” said Blanca Meléndrez, MA, director of the Center for Community Health.
Amina Sheik Mohamed, the center’s senior director, added, “By implementing community engagement and participatory research strategies, racial and ethnic minority communities will have the capacity to provide meaningful input into creating evidence-based, culturally and linguistically appropriate COVID-19 health literacy strategies and improving public health recommendations more generally.”
The overall $250 million HHS Office of Minority Health grant is aimed at reaching racial, ethnic minority, rural, and other vulnerable populations by working with community-based organizations. The Advancing Health Literacy to Enhance Equitable Community Responses to COVID-19 initiative will fund 30 projects in urban areas and 42 in rural communities for two years. The City of Chula Vista is one of six awardees in California.