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HHS Announces Partnership to Fight COVID-19 in Vulnerable Communities

June 25, 2020

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Minority Health (OMH) awarded the Morehouse School of Medicine as the recipient of a new $40 million initiative to fight COVID-19 in racial and ethnic minority, rural, and socially vulnerable communities.

The three-year project will begin during July and focus on strategizing and collaborating with a network of national, state, and local organizations to deliver education and information about resources to help fight the pandemic. The aim of the information network is to strengthen efforts to link communities to COVID-19 testing, health care, and social services while also sharing and implementing effective response, recovery, and resilience strategies.

The partnership with Morehouse School of Medicine is a step toward addressing the underlying social determinants of health that are contributing to worse COVID-19-related outcomes in vulnerable communities, which include:

  • Working conditions
  • Access to essential goods and services
  • Access to quality health care

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the extreme health inequities among certain populations already at risk of poorer health outcomes due to economic or other challenges such as food insecurity or homelessness.

Here in Pennsylvania, reporting of demographical information, specifically race and ethnicity, remains a challenge. Health care practitioners and laboratories were notified in PA-HAN 495 of the need to include demographic variables. Subsequently, the Secretary of Pennsylvania’s Department of Health issued a mandate for demographic collection and the Governor continues to call for better reporting to reduce health disparities. Additional information can be found within HAP’s reminder flyer available at HAP’s COVID-19 resource page.

HAP continues to work with hospitals across the state through regional initiatives to assist members with identifying the best approaches to population health through community health needs assessments, and the ongoing development of meaningful partnerships.

For more information about HAP’s population health efforts, contact Robert Shipp, III, HAP’s vice president, population health and clinical affairs.