Douglas County, Kansas, continues to succeed in its testing and vaccination efforts. Ruaa Hassaballa-Muhammad, COVID Testing Equity Project Manager of Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health and the Douglas County’s Equity Impact Action Team (EIA), is partnering with Kansas Department of Health and Environment’s (KDHE) mobile unit, Starbucks, and Just Food Mobile Pantry to increase its reach to under-resourced populations in easy-to-access locations throughout the county.
The EIA team specifically focuses on ways to incentivize COVID-19 testing and vaccinations while supporting local Douglas County businesses. Gift cards to Chipotle, Starbucks, Walmart, BIPOC-owned small businesses, such as Bodytruth, as well as VISA gift cards, are available for individuals receiving a COVID-19 vaccine or test.
At an event on July 22, 2021, in the Starbucks parking lot, the EIA team administered 52 COVID-19 tests and vaccinated 34 individuals. During an event on July 30, the team administered 81 tests and vaccinated 27 individuals.
“We’re so grateful to have ours [vaccine] done today. Didn’t feel it a bit, and the ladies out front were really nice and helpful with the registration and gifts,” said Chad Michael, a local resident who received his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at the event on July 22.
The vaccine and testing clinic events have also garnered the attention of the local and national media, including a KCTV 5 profile of a family of six who received vaccinations together at the July 30 event, a Fox 4KC report of Douglas County’s above national average vaccination rate, and an MSN.COM report on getting more shots in arms through a partnership with Starbucks.
The team will continue to partner with key community partners, including the University of Kansas and Lawrence Public Library, in August. Visit the Lawrence - Douglas County Public Health website to learn more about Douglas County’s upcoming testing efforts.
An example of the flyer from the vaccine and testing clinic in Starbucks parking lot.
Vicki Collie-Akers (Co-I of RADx-UP) (left), Ruaa Hassaballa-Muhammad (COVID Testing Equity Project Manager of the Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health) (center), and Alex Kimball Williams (Health Equity Planner at Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health) at the Starbucks clinic event on July 22.
Alex Kimball Williams (Health Equity Planner at Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health) at the Starbucks clinic event on July 22. Williams co-led the testing and vaccination effort.
A picture of the Just Food Mobile Pantry on site. Another organization that promotes adult education and completion of a GED was not pictured. Strengthening the partnership with key organizations allows the team to increase its outreach and impact.
Riley County Partnered with City and Faith Leaders to Increase COVID-19 Testing and Vaccination Efforts in Key Areas
Riley County has made testing and vaccination for COVID-19 much easier. These efforts include testing through bilingual (Spanish and English) promotion and taking mobile testing units to easily accessible events, such as the Harvester's food distribution site and other convenient locations for Riley County residents. After seeing a drop in testing in March 2021, however, Jenny Yuen (RADxUP Program Manager) and Kelly Cameron-Harp (Community Health Worker) pivoted in April to address the decline. They combined vaccination and testing events in strategic locations to increase access for a larger number of residents.
The team considered local residents' socio-economic status, literacy level and transportation barriers when selecting their sites. Leonardville and Ogden were chosen because of its proximity to other rural parts of Riley County to reduce transportation barriers. In Lower Manhattan, they selected two additional sites, a community center and a church, for their central location and accessibility to public transportation.
The team disseminated tailored flyers and social media posts and partnered with local city government officials, media, local grocery stores, and prominent faith leaders. In Ogden, distributing flyers through the Post Office was necessary because Ogden residents have PO boxes. In Leonardville, the team disseminated flyers and event announcements through the city clerk and church announcements in collaboration with Pastor Sandy at the United Methodist Church. In an "Easter Drive Thru," sponsored by HyVee and the Manhattan Parks & Rec, they gave out candies, Legos, pens, tote bags, and saliva test kits to amplify the dissemination efforts. Ahead of the lower Manhanttan event, KMAN News Radio interviewed Yuen and Cameron-Harp about the goal of the RADx-UP grant and promoted their vaccination events.
Technology played an unexpected role. In addition to offering walk-ins at events and signing-up by calling the Health Department, the IT team in Riley County designed a QR code system to facilitate the appointment sign-up process. About 50% of the vaccine recipients in Lower Manhattan used the QR codes.
To increase testing at these vaccination events, the team encouraged residents to take home test kits to share with their friends and family. To increase receptivity, primary messaging for the test kits included "Test before you go home to see grandma," or "Before you travel, let's get tested." A total of 212 kits were successfully distributed in these events.
Using innovation to increase testing and vaccination efforts in Finney County
Finney County has been on a mission to reach all areas of the population to battle COVID-19. Early on, area health care providers put together educational videos in various languages, including Somali, Vietnamese, Burmese, and Arabic. These are available on the county website: https://www.finneycounty.org/810/COVID-19-Vaccination.
In addition, LiveWell Finney County Health Coalition has been hard at work to bring testing and vaccination events to the community in fun and innovative ways. RADxUp Program Manager Beth Koksal and LiveWell's Executive Director, Callie Dyer, are a dynamic duo and have hosted multiple events combining vaccination and testing in different locations to reach under-resourced segments of the population.
To combat financial barriers, they have used strategies such as writing the word "FREE" on a large banner on the side on their marketing ambulance. To overcome transportation barriers, they have taken events right into the neighborhoods where people live, hosting mobile events at the East Garden Village, at the Yoyolay Asian Market, and in conjunction with Community Church's bi-weekly food distribution. They have brought a festive air to some of the events by hosting raffles, having giveaways like masks and hand sanitizer, and having Spanish radio provide upbeat, live music. They promoted their events using tailored communications to appeal to their county residents. They have had trusted members of the community go door-to-door with flyers in different languages and have even driven around in the ambulance with the bullhorn announcing the free events. The team has also pushed messaging that no IDs are required. They vaccinated 163 people for a first dose at one event. At a second event held weeks later, they had had a turnout of nearly 200 people, with most attendees receiving their second dose along with some first doses administered, too.
Partnership is crucial for the success of these events. LiveWell Finney County has hosted these events in partnership with St. Catherine Hospital, Genesis Family Health, Finney County Health Department and the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. These health organizations, coalitions, and the champions among them continue to strive to better the health of their community one event at a time.
Vaccination and testing
How do local health departments balance COVID-19 vaccination and testing efforts when the public's attention has mostly shifted to vaccination? Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health Department and its Local Health Action Team are making great strides in tackling the issue. Ruaa Hassaballa (COVID Testing Equity Project Manager) and Christina Gentry (Community Liaison) have successfully handed out more than 1380 tests at the Douglas County Vaccine clinic as of mid-March, 2021. By skillfully reminding vaccine recipients that loved ones in their household may still be vulnerable to COVID-19 and that it is still critical to test, the likelihood for vaccine recipients to take testing kits home has increased significantly. These messages are particularly effective when delivered during the observation period post-vaccine administration.
Wyandotte County Health Equity Task Force Expands Covid-19 Testing in Wyandotte County
Wyandotte County experienced the state of Kansas' first death. Its residents, over half of whom are minorities, have been impacted by COVID-19 at disproportionally high rates. In response to these data, community members representing the diversity of the County's neighborhoods partnered with the Unified Government of Wyandotte Health Department to launch a wide array of COVID-19 services despite a small budget and public health infrastructure.
Billed as the Health Equity Task Force (HETF), this group made up of grassroots and community activists, as well as civic and organizational leaders and the faith community, has given a voice in the planning and delivery of COVID-19 related services in Wyandotte since April 2020.
Organized in area-specific sub-groups, the HETF members have been meeting multiples times per week providing a bi-directional channel of communication for community leaders with the Health Department and the HETF, developing tailored communications and coordinating pop-up testing in the County. The HETF's pop-up testing implemented in partnership with federally qualified health centers and community-based organizations has given access to testing to residents in their own neighborhoods. Championed by trusted community leaders, these efforts have reached the communities impacted the most.
The HETF has worked under the tenet that teamwork and dedication would overcome resource and logistic challenges. They are committed to continuing the battle against COVID-19 and protecting the very vulnerable minority and underserved communities that reside here.
Engagement with community members
Prior to RADxUp, Sedgwick County has collaborated with three community champions in its public service campaigns since June 2020. In partnership with Tami Bradley (Bothner & Bradley), Christina Long (CML Collective), and Claudia Amaro (AB&C Bilingual Resources), the County offers various translations as well as timely delivery of culturally tailored messages to the Latinx and African-American communities. Community champions gave feedback on how to best incorporate culturally specific images and translation into graphics and collaterals. Together, the partnership enhances the overall COVID-19 communication efforts.