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$250 million in COVID-19 grants aim to vaccinate underserved populations

The money is expected to fund about 30 projects in urban communities and 43 projects in rural communities for two years.

Susan Morse, Managing Editor

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Minority Health is offering $250 million in grants to get COVID-19 vaccinations and safety information to underserved populations.

The health literacy grants will go to localities, which will partner with community-based organizations to reach racial and ethnic minority, rural and other vulnerable populations.

The new initiative, called Advancing Health Literacy to Enhance Equitable Community Responses to COVID-19, is expected to fund approximately 30 projects in urban communities and 43 projects in rural communities for two years, HHS said. 

WHY THIS MATTERS

Racial and ethnic minority populations experience higher rates of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths related to the coronavirus infection. 

Social determinants of health, such as housing, education and work conditions, contribute to these disparities. Underlying chronic conditions, such as kidney disease, diabetes and obesity, are more prevalent among minority populations and increase the risk of severe COVID-19 illness.
 
APPLICATIONS

Cities, counties, parishes or other similar subdivisions may apply for the funding.

The Office of Minority Health will be accepting applications through April 20.

Recipients are expected to develop a disparity impact statement using local data to identify racial and ethnic minority populations at highest risk for health disparities, low health literacy, and not being engaged or reached through existing public health messages and approaches for promoting COVID-19 public health recommendations. 

Then they will create and operationalize a health literacy plan, partnering with community-based organizations and adhering to culturally and linguistically appropriate standards, to increase the availability, acceptability and use of COVID-19 public health information and services by racial and ethnic minority populations and others considered vulnerable for not receiving and using COVID-19 public health information.

THE LARGER TREND

The initiative is part of President Biden's National Strategy for the COVID-19 Response and Pandemic Preparedness.

On Saturday, the Senate narrowly passed Biden's $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill that is expected to go back to the House for approval on Tuesday.

The bill includes more funding for vaccinations and vaccine sites.

ON THE RECORD
 
"Information is power, especially the ability to understand and use information to support better health. Whether it helps us understand where to get tested or the benefits of the COVID-19 vaccine, information is a crucial part of keeping families and communities safe," said acting Assistant Secretary for Health RADM Dr. Felicia Collins.  "Nowhere is this more important than in communities hit hardest by the pandemic, especially racial and ethnic minority communities and other vulnerable populations."

Twitter: @SusanJMorse
Email the writer: susan.morse@himssmedia.com

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