COVID-19 offers lessons on how to prepare for the next public health disaster

COVID-19 offers lessons on how to prepare for the next public health disaster

The Public Health Institute helped roll out a COVID-19 vulnerability indexing tool that uses preexisting health disparity mapping technology to understand disparities and community COVID-19 demographics.

PHI-member Public Health Alliance of Southern California launched the Healthy Places Index in 2018, which has been used by more than 100 government, community and independent agencies to tap into factors that influence health across the state—and importantly, to understand local disparities, all at the Census tract level.

The new COVID-19 adaptation maps out case and death counts, vulnerable populations, associated health risk factors, healthcare infrastructure, socioeconomic and community conditions, and race demographics.

Mary Pittman, the institute’s CEO, said the tool has helped the state identify Census tracts to prioritize for vaccination distribution, which can soon be sped up and further leveraged for harder-to-reach populations because of Johnson & Johnson’s single-shot vaccination.

But even before the vaccination distribution chain started to bulk up, PHI used the tool to target early vaccination campaigns in the Coachella Valley farming communities.

“They’re essential workers and they rank high in the vaccine priority, but they were not being reached. In part because they couldn’t take off work or they didn’t have transportation to go to the sites where the vaccine was being offered or they don’t trust government,” Pittman said. “Or if they didn’t have a computer, they couldn’t sign up, so they couldn’t get in.”

In an initiative dubbed Together Towards Health, PHI worked with the Desert Healthcare District-led Coachella Valley Equity Collaborative and farmworker groups to set up on-location vaccination events, going to where the farmworkers were. They vaccinated more than 1,700 in just one week.

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Marie Maynes
Marie Maynes is a Sports enthusiast and writes for the Sports section of ANH.

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