The Alameda County Public Department (ACPHD), serving an urban area that includes Oakland, CA, proposes an innovative initiative to improve health literacy related to COVID-19 (OMH-HL). In partnership with community-based organizations (CBOs) in our hardest hit Latinx and Black communities, we will expand, develop, and implement health literacy strategies that target these subpopulations in under-resourced neighborhoods, in alignment with evidence-based and culturally and linguistically responsive practices.
Need: In Alameda County, Black and Latinx communities have borne the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic in terms of hospitalizations and deaths. Latinx residents account for more than half of all COVID-19 cases in the county. ACPHD has designated 12 priority zip codes, based on local data showing striking disparities in these historically disinvested communities with large populations of Black and Latinx residents. These neighborhoods map onto high-need areas on both the CDC’s Social Vulnerability Index and California’s Healthy Places Index. A new Rockefeller study reveals that only 1 in 3 people of color in Oakland know when and where they will be able to be vaccinated; the same proportion strongly agree that the vaccine is safe and effective. Residents report that, more than any other factor, “having more information about the vaccine” would motivate them to take it.
Approach: Since fall 2020, ACPHD’s COVID-19 Outreach and Health Education Network, a collaboration of 17 CBOs, has helped develop and deliver culturally and linguistically responsive public health messages related to prevention, testing, and vaccination for COVID-19. Expanding on this effort, ACPHD’s OMH-HL seeks to amplify Black and Latinx voices via tailored health literacy initiatives within these communities. CBOs embedded in these communities will collaborate to develop and implement a Health Literacy Plan, using evidence-based health literacy models that include residents in assessing, designing, and advocating for changes in public health messaging and in the healthcare system. Our guideposts are the National Action Plan to Improve Health Literacy and ACPHD’s Health Promotion, Education, and Prevention framework. We seek to promote changes in the healthcare system broadly that advance Healthy People objectives to improve patient-provider communication and informed decision-making.
Proposed elements include: developing new strategies for “virtual promotores”; training online influencers on platforms like TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube; expanding SMS/text capabilities to push messages to Mam- and Spanish-speaking communities; expanding communications campaigns, including targeted media buys and high-quality video content to reach populations with low literacy/low health literacy; street level outreach and outdoor outreach events; and training a cohort of “mystery patients” to assess the patient experience with providers, starting with ACPHD’s vaccination sites and then other providers that serve priority neighborhoods.
Partners: OMH-HL partners are CBOs embedded in Alameda County’s priority neighborhoods and the Black and Latinx communities that have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19. Partners include a community center, health clinics, a Black church, a Spanish-language reporting lab, and a homeless services organization; they have been selected to reach diverse groups within these communities, as well as for specific capabilities they bring to the table.
QI and Evaluation: An independent evaluator from a Minority-Serving Institution will design and implement quality improvement processes and a mixed-methods evaluation to understand and document program process, outcome, and impact. Partners will convene in a Learning Community to share successes and challenges and refine strategies to better reach the priority populations.
Capacity: ACPHD has longstanding collaborations with CBO partners and a reputation as a leader in health equity.