The Utah Department of Health Office of Health Disparities responds to unequal access of health and pandemic related information through Community Health Workers. Through close community partnerships, the Office of Health Disparities provides necessary funding and other resources to continue the essential work of communicating with refugee and immigrant communities.
Recently, Intermountain Healthcare and Maverik – Adventure’s First stop joined together to donate $2 million in funding to support UDOH’s community health workers program to help mitigate the spread and negative impact of COVID-19 and support vulnerable community members.
Community health workers are actively addressing the health disparities among communities of color that have widened during the COVID-19 pandemic. Community health workers have a unique relationship with the community they serve, and can act as a bridge between the community and health and social resources.
They also facilitate access to services and improve the quality and cultural and linguistic competence of service delivery. Community health workers often share race, ethnicity, language, socioeconomic status, and life experiences with the community members they assist.
“Since the beginning of the pandemic, we moved quickly to establish a response. Community health workers were identified as a necessary component to help mitigate the spread and effects of COVID-19 on underserved and underrepresented communities, particularly racial/ethnic minority communities,” said Dulce Diez, director of the Office of Health Disparities at the Utah Department of Health.
“This Project was funded by the CARES Act until December 2020. We could not stop the project at the end of the year leaving all these vulnerable families without help. Thanks to the altruism of Intermountain Healthcare and Maverik, we can keep the project running for the first part of 2021 until additional federal funding becomes available,” said Diez.
The COVID-19 pandemic has hit communities of color disproportionality hard. In Utah, racial and ethnic minorities have the highest case rates, hospitalization rates, and mortality rates based on population sizes.
Information obtained from the Utah Department of Health, as of December 18, 2020, shows:
- The Hispanic population accounted for 23.8 percent of COVID-19 cases in Utah while accounting for 14.2 percent of the state’s population.
- Hospitalization rats of Pacific Islanders/Hawaiian Natives were 91.1 per 1,000 cases of COVID-19 cases. This is double the statewide hospitalization rate of 40.1 per 1,000 cases.
- Mortality rates of Native Americans – 68.0 per 100,000 are more than two times as high as the 29.6 per 100,000 mortality rate of white community members.
“In many ways, community health workers have been the lifeline for countless individuals recovering from COVID-19. Their ability to connect community members with the precise resources they need to safely recover from the virus has helped our community get back on its feet,” said Mikelle Moore, senior vice president and chief community health officer for Intermountain Healthcare. “We are honored to join Maverik in sustaining this vital resource to keep the pathway toward healing open to all those we serve.”