The COVID-19 pandemic has widened health disparities, including the gap in average life expectancy and outcomes for many chronic diseases. These inequities in health status and outcomes among racial and ethnic groups often are rooted in community-level factors like where and how we live, work, and play; inherent bias; lack of adequate coverage and access to providers; and unfortunately, systemic racism and discrimination.
PhRMA recognizes the many interwoven factors that allow health inequities to arise and persist, and we are committed to doing our part to address those factors. The organization is working with partners and other health care stakeholders to advance efforts to study and address the causes of health disparities and advance policies and best practices to address social determinants of health.
Moreover, we believe addressing inequities in a rapid and effective way requires connecting with and learning from affected communities directly. Recognizing that each community faces unique barriers, the PhRMA Collaborative Actions to Reach Equity (CAREs) grant program aims to develop and sustain community-centered solutions. Through the program to date, PhRMA has awarded over $350,000 in grant funding to local, community-based efforts to improve health equity.
Today, we are thrilled to announce the CAREs grant program has awarded $150,000 to fund four additional initiatives aimed at reducing inequities in COVID-19 access to care, treatment and therapeutics and improving health outcomes. The following initiatives will receive $37,500 each:
Using Community Health Workers to Prevent COVID-19 in Low-Income Black Communities | Sisters in Birth, Inc. in Madison, Hinds, Rankin Counties, Mississippi
More babies die in Mississippi than any other state in the nation. Sisters in Birth, Inc. is a women’s health community-based clinic that predominantly serves the Black female Mississippi Medicaid population in counties with the highest share of female-headed households. Sisters in Birth plans to expand its efforts to provide counseling to pregnant women and new mothers with education on COVID-19 prevention and vaccinations, COVID-19 testing, and free masks within women’s homes, places of employment, and community events. Using the CAREs grant funding, Sisters in Birth will hire several additional staff to expand its reach and impact, particularly in Hinds County. It will provide COVID-19 education and assessment within the clinic, during home visits, and during some community events, such as diaper giveaways.
“SIB is pleased to be a recipient of the PhRMA’s Collaborative Actions to Reach Equity (CAREs) grant program. We have a strong track record of utilizing community health workers, who are on the frontline of public health, to educate pregnant and postpartum women and their families within low-income communities. We expect that our community health workers will adequately educate this population about the risks associated with COVID-19 and the evidence-based steps necessary to prevent infection. Moreover, we anticipate a significant increased rate in mask use among pregnant clients and vaccination among their family members, as well as a decreased rate in risky behavior that may lead to infection.” - Getty Israel, MPH; CEO of Sisters in Birth, Inc.
NAESM COVID-19 Outreach Project | NAESM, Inc. in Atlanta, Georgia
NAESM is a nonprofit community-based safety net provider with more than 30 years of commitment to providing health services, particularly for HIV, to Black gay/bi/same gender loving men and women of transgender experience in the Metro Atlanta area. NAESM proposes a large-scale communications campaign utilizing social media programming, street and community outreach, and information provided at its national conference to address vaccine hesitancy in the Black gay/bi/same gender loving and the Black transgender communities in the metro Atlanta area and nation-wide.
“We expect our COVID-19 vaccination outreach, education, and access-assistance program to increase the number and percentage of Black LGBTQI individuals in the metro Atlanta area who receive COVID-19 vaccination and subsequent booster shots as advised by the CDC. We also hope that our work in this arena will spark and support similar efforts by other HIV service agencies that predominantly serve Black LGBTQI populations.
“This is intrinsically important because of the highly contagious nature of the COVID-19 virus and the seriousness of COVID-19 disease. But our involvement in decreasing COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy is also a dress rehearsal for the work that will be necessary when an HIV vaccine becomes available, in order to ensure that Black LGBTQI individuals do not continue to bear a disproportionate burden of HIV infection.” - Alvan Quamina, JD, PhD, MPH; Executive Director, NAESM, Inc.
Supporting Access to COVID-19 Vaccines among Teens, Young Adults, and American Indian/Alaska Native Communities | National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities (National)
The National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities (NACDD) is a nationwide network of Developmental Disabilities Councils with connections, partnerships, and engagement with communities in every state and U.S. territory. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, NACDD launched the GetOutTheVaccine campaign to provide streamlined access to trusted resources on COVID-19 vaccines. NACCD will expand promotion of the GetOutTheVaccine Campaign to reach American Indian/Alaskan Native (AI/AN) populations, as well as teens and young adults.
"At NACDD, we want people with disabilities to get back to living their fullest lives. So many people have been isolated from their friends, families, coworkers and their community because of this pandemic. Despite strong efforts across the nation, too many Americans – including people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, their families and their caregivers – either remain hesitant or are experiencing barriers that keep them from getting the COVID-19 vaccine.
“Our continued work on the GetOutTheVaccine.org campaign will provide individuals, families and community leaders in American Indian/Alaskan Native populations the opportunity to share their voices and experiences to help support building awareness and breaking down barriers to vaccine hesitancy.” - Donna Meltzer; CEO, National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities
Barriers to COVID-19 Vaccination in the Black Belt Region | Auburn University in Alabama
The Black Belt region is one of the most impoverished and rural region in the U.S, represented by a string of counties in 11 states, including Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia. These Black Belt states have some of the lowest COVID-19 vaccination rates. This project will compare and contrast state vaccine policies across the Black Belt region and conduct surveys among African Americans living in the Black Belt region to document critical barriers to vaccination.
“The disseminated findings of our investigation will help improve equity in access to vaccines and promote the adoption of best practices in underserved communities hardest hit by COVID-19. We expect the lessons learned from this investigation will also facilitate timely responses to communities across the country should an unexpected pandemic happens in the future. This PhRMA Collaborative Actions to Reach Equity (CAREs) Grant makes this critical investigation possible.” - C. Edward Chou, Ph.D., Associate Professor and Surachat Ngorsuraches, Ph.D., Associate Professor; Harrison School of Pharmacy, Auburn University (C. Edward Chou, Ph.D. is pictured to the left, and Surachat Ngorsuraches, Ph.D., is pictured to the right)
The CAREs grants will be used to not only support the efforts of these organizations to advance access to COVID-19 care, but also to help support the identification of community-led best practices toward scalable, practical interventions that can be applied to other communities, disease states or public health concerns to advance health equity.
We are looking forward to continuing this work through subsequent CAREs awards. There are many organizations working in hard-hit areas and with disadvantaged populations to improve access to COVID-19 testing, vaccinations and treatments to end the pandemic and curb its effects on other diseases, and PhRMA is committed to being part of these solutions.
Jackie McRae is a Director of Policy, Research, and Membership at PhRMA focusing on health equity and the value of medicines. Jackie graduated with a Doctorate of Pharmacy from Mercer University and Master of Science in Applied Health Economics and Outcomes Research from Thomas Jefferson University. Jackie previously worked as a Post-Doctoral Fellow in Health Economics and Outcomes Research at Janssen Scientific Affairs and Thomas Jefferson University. Outside the office, Jackie can be found hiking on local trails and enjoying scenic drives.