Advancing Education and Building Trust to Address COVID-19 in Communities of Color

By Joy A. Lewis, MSW, MPH


As we recognize National Minority Health Month in April, one of our priorities is to mitigate COVID-19’s disproportionate impact on Black, Latino, American Indian, Alaska Native and other diverse populations. Right now, such inequities persist in these populations’ access to COVID-19 vaccines, even as vaccines become more widely available.

Nationwide, many Americans have lingering questions about the COVID-19 vaccines’ safety. The CDC COVID-19 Data Tracker, in detailing race and ethnicity information of vaccinated Americans, shows that as of April 13, only 8.5% of Black, Non-Hispanic adults and just over 11% of Hispanic/Latino adults have received at least one vaccine dose — compared to 65% of White, Non-Hispanic adults.

Hospitals and health systems have a role to play in changing these trends. Health care providers are trusted sources of evidence-based medical information in the communities they serve. As such, the AHA created a new educational resource, Addressing Inequities in COVID-19 Vaccine Administration Efforts, to help our member hospitals provide their diverse communities with accurate, accessible information to support informed decision-making and promote vaccine confidence.

So how might hospitals and health systems engage with and encourage vaccine uptake in communities of color? Get a front-line perspective by listening to our new AHA Advancing Health podcast. Hear Esther Corpuz, CEO of Alivio Medical Center in Chicago, describe efforts to increase vaccine education, confidence and equitable distribution.

Even as we commemorate National Minority Health Month, we know that efforts to achieve health equity must be a continuous focus throughout the year. That’s why at the AHA, we will work to remove structural barriers that maintain systems of advantage and oppression and close the health disparities gap and ensure access to high quality, equitable health care. The journey to achieve health equity requires accountability and innovation.

Joy Lewis is AHA’s senior vice president of health equity strategies. She also is the executive director of the AHA’s Institute for Diversity and Health Equity