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 intentional way that supports communities at risk for adverse impact from COVID-19. At the onset of the pandemic, the ELT used a data-driven approach to identify over 70 communities whose concentration of underserved populations is twice the Commonwealth’s average. The ELT established partnerships with these communities to reform the local emergency response towards health equity, providing just-in-time training for the application of health equity strategies before, during, and after a disaster. The ELT has also assisted local communities with leveraging existing skills and resources of state and local governments to address the needs of Virginia’s underserved communities.
As the pandemic progressed into the vaccine response, the ELT recognized that communities disproportionally impacted by COVID-19 were also underrepresented in vaccine preregistration and lagging in vaccination rates. Using a data-driven approach to identify communities with vulnerable populations that experienced the greatest COVID-19 impact, ELT launched community engagement teams to address these inequities. Furthermore, the ELT used an equity analysis to identify strategic locations for community vaccination centers in the communities with high need and disproportionate COVID-19 impact. Community engagement and tailored vaccination efforts are underway to support vaccination uptake in Virginia’s underserved communities.
The ELT supports local jurisdictions and community organizers to conduct door to door outreach. For example, the Taskforce provided over 1,023,400 face masks and 835,900 bottles of hand sanitizer to localities and equipped them with analyses to support the distribution of these resources to communities most in need. Additionally, the ELT equipped community engagement teams with analyses to identify outreach opportunities in communities of need. As of April 7, 2021, the community engagement teams distributed over 4,800 educational materials about the COVID-19 vaccines and registration process, and helped over 10,407 people register for vaccines who might otherwise not have had equitable access.
For more information about the Health Equity Leadership Taskforce’s distribution of PPE to communities of color, low-income communities, and areas with elevated health risk, see the Equity in Action Dashboard - PPE Partnerships page.
We are leveraging a targeted approach to identify at-risk populations. The ELT defines at-risk populations as 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 and community organizations to collaborate with local health districts and organizers of community testing events to serve 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.