The Rockefeller Foundation Equity Advisory Council outlines 20 actions to support vaccine and health equity in transition from response to recovery
NEW YORK | November 14, 2022 – A panel of leading experts on vaccine equity is urging federal, state, and local authorities to sustain and expand the significant progress that has been made to ensure equitable access to Covid-19 vaccinations. The 20 recommendations include the formal designation and inclusion of community-based organizations and workers (CBOs/CBWs) as essential members of the public health infrastructure. If implemented, these recommendations can help save lives in vulnerable communities hit hard by the pandemic and ensure communities are ready to respond to future outbreaks.
“Community health workers have been on the front lines of this pandemic, and yet too often they’ve been an afterthought in the public health community,” said Denise Smith, Equity Advisory Council Member and Executive Director of the National Association of Community Health Workers. “If we want to eliminate racial disparities in public health, we need to designate community health workers as trusted and critical infrastructure workers, just like other healthcare personnel who are on the front lines during emergencies like the Covid-19 pandemic.”
The Rockefeller Foundation Equity Advisory Council, a 13-member panel of public health and equity experts representing diverse communities, noted that only a small portion of CBOs that worked on access to and confidence in testing, vaccines, and treatments during the pandemic are considered part of traditional healthcare or public health sectors. The rest are generally called upon only during crises.
“We need to formally recognize and support our community-based organizations with both adequate funding and technical assistance,” said Rita Carreón, Equity Advisory Council Member and Vice President for Health at UnidosUS. “The pandemic laid bare just how much CBO staff were undercompensated and not prioritized to receive PPE, vaccines or Covid tests. We can and should do better.”
The Council created 20 evidence-based recommendations based on the basic understanding that vaccine equity starts at the community level, and that efforts to build vaccine confidence and demand need to be prioritized as much as efforts to create vaccine supply. To do this, federal, state and local governments need to invest in communities and CBOs for sustained engagement, ensure community leaders are included as leaders and designers in initiatives, support equity-centered data collection, and build communications teams that include community leaders who can consistently adapt messages to meet local cultures and needs. Federal officials also need to do a better job of acknowledging uncertainty, telling stories, and using visuals.
The Equity Advisory Council met regularly starting in 2021 to advise and inform The Rockefeller Foundation’s grantmaking during its Equity-First Vaccination Initiative (EVI). The Foundation launched its $20 million EVI to help over 90 CBOs and partners scale hyper-local, community-led programs in five cities to improve access to vaccines and accurate information.
“The EVI has been tremendously successful in showing us how hands-on, hyper-local engagement can lead to greater vaccine equity,” said Greg Johnson, Managing Director of the U.S. Equity and Economic Opportunity Initiative at The Rockefeller Foundation. “The Rockefeller Foundation is already utilizing what we’ve learned as we implement our Global Vaccine Initiative to accelerate global vaccine equity, and I’m hopeful that stakeholders can use these recommendations to support both ongoing vaccine equity and broader health equity issues here in the United States as well.”
The Rockefeller Foundation also supported an additional analysis of the EVI developed by the RAND Corporation in August which called for hyper-local engagement as a key to promoting vaccination equity, as well as a report from researchers at the Brown University School of Public Health in September which recommended structural public health changes and significant investment in vaccine demand generation. The EVI ran from April 2021 to April 2022. Brown University School of Public Health served as secretariat to the Council.
The 13 members of the Equity Advisory Council are listed here.
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