The mission of the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) is to protect and improve the health and well-being of all Arkansans. When the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed in the state in March of 2020, the mission to protect the health of all Arkansans was threatened. Unfortunately, health disparities in the COVID-19 crisis have only highlighted the long-standing inequities within the health care system and the threat to attaining one?s full potential was made even more dire for racial and ethnic groups in the state. While the devastating impact of the pandemic is pervasive among all populations, African-Americans, Latinos, and other minority groups have disproportionately higher rates of infection. African Americans had higher rates of underlying chronic conditions such hypertension, diabetes, obesity, asthma, and kidney failure. In fact, Arkansas?s chronic disease prevalence profiles indicated 59.8% of Arkansans have hypertension, 36.7% have hyperlipidemia, 31.0% have diabetes, 30.0% have ischemic heart disease, 20.7% have heart failure, 7.4% have cancer, and 5.3% have stroke. These conditions stem from issues such as poverty, lack of health insurance, inadequate housing and limited access to health care ? all of which negatively impact health outcomes associated with COVID-19. Now, more than ever, there is a need for a robust plan to address the long-standing structural failings of our health care system to prevent an even greater racial divide in health outcomes. Because Arkansas only has one health department, ADH is uniquely poised to provide meaningful impact in reducing health disparities and social determinants of health across the state. The agency is divided into five Centers, each with a particular focus for all Arkansans to achieve maximum personal, economic and social impact. The Office of Health Equity (OHE) is housed under the Office of the Secretary of Health to facilitate collaboration across all five Centers. In addition, t
he Office of Rural Health and Primary Care (ORHPC) supports the mission of the agency by promoting healthcare services and systems with a focus on increasing the availability of quality health care for all Arkansans. The office gives special attention to rural, low income, uninsured, isolated and vulnerable populations. CDC-RFA-OT21-2103 represents a critically important opportunity to accelerate the progress made in addressing COVID-19 health disparities in Arkansas. The plan set forth in this proposal involves 55 partners with 44 activities aligned with the four overarching strategies. Intended outcomes are to: 1) reduce COVID-19-related health disparities; 2) improve and increase testing and contact tracing among populations at higher risk and that are underserved; and 3) improve state, local, and state health department capacity and services to prevent and control COVID-19 infection (or transmission) among racial and ethnic minority groups and people living in rural communities. By leading a concerted effort to work across agencies, community groups and external partners, ADH will be better suited to maximize the impact of federal COVID-19 funding, strengthen implementation of strategies, and align resources to match the burden of COVID-19 among populations who have been historically underserved and at increased risk for poor outcomes.