Virginia’s Health Equity Leadership Taskforce is utilizing a novel data-driven approach to inform the COVID-19 Unified Command about at-risk populations and geographic areas of increased risk. This task force is the first-of-its-kind both in the Commonwealth of Virginia history and the United States to exist within an emergency response body. This Equity Leadership Taskforce is leveraging data and mapping techniques to apply a health equity lens to every part of the Commonwealth’s COVID-19 response, putting our health equity leadership into action.
We are focused on action and responding to COVID-19 in a quick and focused way that supports communities at risk for adverse impact from COVID-19. The Equity Leadership team is piloting a partnership to reform the local emergency response towards health equity that leverages the skills and resources of state and local governments to address the needs of Virginia’s underserved communities. Using a data-driven approach, the Equity Leadership Taskforce identified over 70 communities whose concentration of underserved populations is twice the Commonwealth’s average.
We are partnering with local leaders to integrate testing, outreach, and commodity distribution in several communities such as Hampton, Roanoke, Harrisonburg, Norfolk, Chesapeake and northern Virginia. For example, when we partnered with Chesapeake, our efforts included helping the uninsured apply for health insurance, encouraging residents to complete the 2020 Census, helping people register to vote, and providing supplies such as food boxes, gardens in a bag, and cleaning kits.
The Equity Leadership Taskforce supports local jurisdictions in planning door to door outreach in the distribution of masks, hand sanitizers, and health education materials. So far, over 796,400 face masks and 674,400 bottles of hand sanitizer have been distributed to localities. We leveraged the most up-to-date data to create maps and distribution plans to reach the communities most in need.
We are leveraging a targeted approach to identify at-risk populations. The Equity Leadership Taskforce defines at-risk populations as those diverse communities with underlying health conditions and other socioeconomic factors that increases the adverse impact of COVID-19 on these communities. We encourage local jurisdictions to collaborate with community testing events to serve the at-risk populations.
COVID-19 can spread incredibly quickly in congregate facilities like jails and correctional facilities. To help protect incarcerated individuals and the workforce, the Equity Leadership Taskforce distributed over 170,000 masks to 68 jails and 41 state prisons to provide protection for this vulnerable population. This initiative was made possible through a partnership between the Equity Leadership Taskforce and the Reform Alliance.