By Pamela Divack, Andrew Mohama and Lauren Woodrow
After nearly 20 months of the Covid-19 pandemic, there have been many strategies to deal with the public health crisis – what responses have actually worked? Pamela Divack, Andrew Mohama and Lauren Woodrow of the Advisory Board recently spoke with an organization that has been successful in their endeavors. The organization, called Stop the spread, was able to have an impact thanks to integrated solutions in equity. To advance health equity during the Covid-19 pandemic and other public health responses, health officials need to think beyond the vaccine. They must identify opportunities to better understand their communities and improve basic health care, while emphasizing trust and equity. This is exactly what Stop the Spread did.
In March 2020, Stop the Spread called on CEOs and other leaders to commit to taking action aimed at supporting and recovering from Covid-19. In a few days, more than 1,300 general managers signed the pledge to #StopTheSpread and #LeadBoldy. Functioning as a program of Impact Assets since June 2020, Stop the Spread has grown into an organization dedicated to catalyzing private and philanthropic sector responses to the pandemic. Since January, the focus has expanded to access the Covid-19 vaccine, building confidence and awareness, and advancing health equity in underfunded communities, with particular emphasis on New York and Los Angeles neighborhoods.
The impact of Stop the Spread efforts
In addition to expanding access to vaccines, Stop the Spread focused on addressing underlying health needs in communities by creating access to other health and social services. These efforts were successful and were made possible through strategic partnerships with the community and the private sector. Through partnerships with organizations such as the Community health network, St. John’s Well Child and Family Center, Unite We, Bento, Free space, Teen line, and others, here are some of the accomplishments of Stop the Spread:
- Administer over 30,000 vaccines at four community sites and over 80 pop-up events in historically underfunded neighborhoods through partnerships with churches, schools, supportive housing and other community organizations (70 % of vaccinated people identified as black or Hispanic);
- Launch its “Vaccine +” program connecting more than 700 vaccinated people with insurance coverage and a primary care provider in Los Angeles alone;
- Providing information, tools and services on mental health to more than 4,000 people;
- Establish more than 1,100 referrals to community organizations; and,
- Offer more than 6,000 healthy and free meals to people in a situation of food insecurity.
These are just a few of the many impacts Stop the Spread has had on various communities. What exactly were the keys to their success? There are four key takeaways for this organization‘s efforts, many of which may advise beyond the scope of Covid-19.
Four takeaways from successful Stop the Spread efforts
1. Equity is not a universal initiative – it is possible to advance health equity by developing solutions tailored to each community served.
How the concept of âcommunityâ is defined is critical to advancing health equity. Communities should be defined by neighborhoods or communities of people, rather than existing patient populations. Stop the Spread has worked at this broader community level to deploy hyperlocal services tailored to the population.
In the early stages of vaccine deployment, Stop the Spread recognized that people are more comfortable disclosing their healthcare needs and challenges with trusted intermediaries or when their identities are protected. To better understand and respond to the needs of the community, Stop the Spread held weekly meetings with community leaders and deployed anonymous in-person and virtual surveys to community members. They did this in real time, recognizing that ad hoc focus groups do not provide insight into changing needs.
These efforts revealed community needs ranging from nutrition, a healthy lifestyle and access to food, support for anxiety and stress, health insurance, primary care, financial assistance and l increased loneliness. As a result, Stop the Spread was able to identify and respond to needs as the pandemic evolved.
2. Take advantage of every free moment to identify needs.
âAny vaccination site that does not make better use of this 15-minute monitoring period loses an opportunity to listen to the needs of its community,â said Kimberly Chen, Health Equity Program Manager at Stop the Spread . Don’t underestimate the power of 15 minutes: Conversations surfaced during this time, stories that helped guide important efforts. In one case, an outreach worker in St. John’s asked a person seated during the observation period, “What else do you need help with right now?” This simple question opened the door for their personal account, revealing that they were a survivor of domestic violence, lived out of their cars and had no health insurance. This conversation allowed the outreach worker to connect the patient with essential resources to help them when needed, and it only took a few minutes.
3. Meet the basic health and safety needs of a community through last mile interventions – confidence will follow.
In addition to the establishment of Covid-19 vaccination sites, Stop the Spread has integrated free health services unrelated to Covid-19 in their community efforts. Access to basic services is always a challenge, which is why vaccination sites have offered a great opportunity to meet the needs of the community in a way that is easy to access, convenient, personalized and free. Ultimately, this helped build confidence in the healthcare system and build confidence in the Covid-19 vaccine.
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For example, Stop the Spread and Community Healthcare Network hosted a free, mobile HIV clinic in New York City, as well as a PRIDE celebration. Some patients were unwilling to receive a Covid-19 vaccine but were interested in preventive HIV care. After patients received free HIV tests and enrollment in PrEP, they began to trust health workers and became open to receiving the Covid-19 vaccine. This was a direct result of building relationships with patients and giving them a safe space to discuss their concerns. Pairing Covid-19 vaccinations with other components of primary care has also helped de-stigmatize communicable infections and made it easier for individuals to access the services they needed at no cost to them, regardless of their health status. insurance or immigration. A partnership with the Center for Clinical and Translational Sciences of Weill Cornell Medicine in New York also enabled diabetes and health screenings and links to follow-up care.
By leveraging other one-on-one interactions with patients, Stop the Spread demonstrated how building confidence in the vaccine can occur by building confidence and meeting needs beyond the vaccine.
4. Harness the power of interpersonal relationships to build trust at the patient level.
Stop the Spread has learned that word of mouth is the main driver of visits to vaccination sites. As a result, Stop the Spread focused on harnessing the power of personal networks and launched a âRefer-A-Friendâ Incentive Program for Immunizations, powered by mPulse Mobile.
During the 15-minute post-vaccination observation period, community outreach workers encouraged patients to text friends and family to get vaccinated. They also co-designed a Young Ambassadors program with TO AUGMENT empower young people to lead immunization efforts in their communities.
Additionally, Stop the Spread used community outreach workers to connect with patients and discuss common concerns. Since these volunteers came from the neighborhoods they served, they were aware of the unique historical trauma that some populations experienced and were able to connect more deeply with people on a personal level.
As leaders seek to address challenges related to Covid-19, or really any public health issue, they need to build equity into every part of their business strategy. A holistic approach with equitable partnerships will not only save money and time, but will also advance the equity strategy in the long run, rather than relying on rambling pilot programs. Stop the Spread has prioritized equity in all efforts, which has helped them succeed in increasing both immunizations and access to other important services and information in underfunded communities.
The opportunity to listen, learn and help is often hidden in plain sight. People want to be seen and heard for who they are. When we bear witness to individual life stories, we learn how best to help an entire community. Stop the Spread has taken this to heart.
Want to learn more about Stop the Spread? Discover their website access their resources and tools, such as the Stop the Spread Playbook for Community Immunizations and Top 5 strategies to speed up vaccination. In addition, you can sregister here for a free Technical Assistance Session before September 30.