The city of New Haven just got some good financial news to help in the fight to keep its communities healthy.
A $4 million federal grant will specifically target improving health literacy as well as COVID-19 vaccination efforts.
"It is so exciting to be able to get some funding into the public health system so that we can be able to address what we’ve been working so diligently on, which is this response for COVID-19. This grant is going to allow us to now really take it to the next level. We can really look at improving health literacy and COVID mitigation strategies around the vaccines, particularly to under-served communities," said New Haven Health Department Director Maritza Bond.
Health literacy is described as a person's ability to find, understand and use information and services to make health-related decisions for themselves and others, according to city officials.
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Because of the pandemic, health literacy has been low, resulting in poor coronavirus outcomes among many minority groups.
"One of the things and components that we have seen historically, and I think it’s very common, is the understanding of the jargon that are constantly being used in the media, in the scientific journals. Yes, we love science. However, when we need to get at the granular level, we need to make sure that the communities are able to understand and navigate that, so that individuals can and make the best decisions for themselves," Bond said.
City officials pointed out that Black and Latinx residents received only 39% of COVID-19 vaccines administered as of March, despite being over half of the city's population.
"In New Haven, we’re very fortunate. We have a long way to go but we are the leading urban city in the state of Connecticut. We have 61% of individual‘s that have received at least the first dose. Over 55% are fully vaccinated and protected. It is going to allow us to have this community-driven effort to be able to further our percentages so that we can eventually get to herd immunity," Bond said.
The grant will go toward the city's Health Education and Literacy Initiative, which is a community-driven effort led by the health department to address low health literacy in New Haven's 10 neighborhoods, according to city officials.
“As we have seen in this pandemic, health equity is a matter of life and death,” said Mayor Justin Elicker. “For all too long, many Black, Brown and Indigenous communities have suffered from limited access and low health literacy, and COVID-19 has made these inequalities all the more apparent. This ALH grant will help us make substantial progress in ensuring that there are equal opportunities and health outcomes for all New Haven residents.”
The initiative aims to:
- Develop and distribute relatable and understandable public health information (posters, flyers, social media visual materials, videos, etc.) at community events, faith communities, and businesses.
- Deploy community health workers to canvass the neighborhoods alongside community partners to engage residents and equip them with necessary and accessible information about COVID-19 prevention, vaccines, and testing.
- Equip frontline medical staff with health literacy skills that will ensure that residents receive clear, actionable information that enables them to become active and effective participants in their own healthcare.
- Connect residents with community health resources to encourage regular, active engagement with preventative health services.
- Connect residents with financial supports in order to address economically driven comorbid vulnerabilities that undermine health literacy and preventative health measures.