Among the many lessons learned by the Washington state Department of Health and community partners throughout the COVID-19during the COVID-19 pandemic by community partners and the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) is the need for effective community engagement and collaboration.
The Black/African American community has been amongst many communities that have been hit the hardest throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. DOH launched the Vaccine Collaborative to facilitate engagement between communities impacted by COVID-19 and health care organizations, public health, and other partners to inform best practices for vaccine implementation and learn how to reduce barriers.
“For a very long time, the government felt so far away from its people,” says Zyna Bakari, the Public Health Manager at the Urban League program in Seattle, Washington. “DOH set up the Vaccine Collaborative, a forum that has enabled us to facilitate real-time conversations around vaccine uptake and emerging barriers while also closing the communication gaps that existed in the previous years.”
The Collaborative has played a pivotal role in coordinating the pandemic response efforts by ensuring appropriate communications between the frontline health experts and community organizations. Community organizations have been empowered to show early leadership in mitigating the outbreak. “There is a sense of empowerment, and we advise DOH on what is not working and share our ideas about how our communities can be empowered within a healthcare system,” said Zyna.
Zyna also notes that her organization, the Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle, has built a lot of relationships and networks with other Black community organizations throughout Washington through the Collaborative. “Before the pandemic, we may not have known about each other, but now there are so many connections formed. Through the Vaccine Collaborative, I was able to learn about so many organizations, organizers, and people,” She states. “As a member of the Black community, it excites me every day about what we will be able to do and build together as a community, now that we’re connected more than ever before.”
“As a Black community, it excites me every day
about what we’ll be able do to do together
and build together as a community now
that we’re more connected than before.”
Black/African Americans living in Washington State are one community, amongst many, that continue to be underrepresented and heavily impacted throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Confirmed hospitalizations and death rates are twice as high among the Black population compared to the white population. The Urban Health League program is one of the 47 community-rooted organizations that have received funding from DOH to lead and engage members of underrepresented communities.
Community-based organizations are funded to address and combat misconceptions & concerns around COVID-19 vaccines and provide information that will promote vaccine uptake. The Urban League developed a guide and campaign called, Black Health Matters – Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle, to support the Black community with having open and honest conversations about COVID-19 and vaccines. The Urban League also facilitates community-led forums, leads outreach and engagement efforts, and builds relationships with trusted Black medical providers and messengers to support an open and ongoing dialogue with the community throughout the pandemic.