Written by Senait Admassu (MSW), President
As a community-based nonprofit organization, the African Communities Public Health Coalition (ACPHC), for the past seven years, has primarily been the premier vehicle for providing mental health and social services to the African immigrant and refugee communities of the Los Angeles area. Located in the community, ACPHC has actively engaged the diverse African communities to be familiar with the needs and the barriers to obtaining services and needed resources. Especially in these challenging COVID-19 times, ACPHC has also made a robust effort to establish trust, credibility, and rapport to ensure that community members feel more comfortable and confident seeking services.
In the African immigrant and refugee minority communities, there are specific concerns among those who are service and vaccine-hesitant. Moreover, similar to many communities of color, there is a significant mistrust on Covid 19 testing and vaccines. A Centers for Disease Control (CDC) COVID-19 found mortality rates are nearly three times higher than the rate among White individuals; they are also at higher risk for severe outcomes and complications related to the virus (CDC, 2020a, 2020b). Therefore, ACPHC has been working to overcome the glaring racial and ethnic disparities in the pandemic’s impact.
As COVID- 19 vaccines will become more and more available, ACPHC’s cultural understandings of its clients’ beliefs of the body, disease, and appropriate types of health care will be of paramount importance. ACPHC will also endeavor to ensure the equitable allocation, distribution, and delivery of services as early vaccination programs roll out. ACPHC will continue to strengthen its relationships with trusted community members, especially community gate-keepers —a process that takes time but is essential. To this end, as the pandemic is an urgent matter to be addressed, ACPHC will work with a sense of urgency, clarity, credibility, zeal, and respect and will continue to:
- To engage and strengthen its partnerships with key informants and community gate-keepers and leaders of community-based organizations and public and private service providers.
- Empower, engage and provide valid, reliable, useful, and timely information to trusted messengers who have roots in the African immigrant and refugee communities
- Engage critical stakeholders across multiple and accessible channels and communication platforms
- Work continuously towards racial equity in Covid 19 testing and accessibility of vaccines
- Will promote and encourage community buy-in on Covid 19 testing and vaccination
- Advocate for and communicate about inequities in Covid 19 testing and access for vaccination
The ten years of experience working with African immigrant and refugee communities have shown that we will be working to:
- Identify and engage staff or community-based trusted Messengers to deliver messages
- Meeting community members where they are or and not stay in our offices and wait for them to come to us
- Depending on the community, tailor messages to specific audiences, culturally, linguistically, etc.
- Adapt the messaging based on current facts and circumstances
- Respond to adverse events in a transparent and timely manner
- Garner support and emphasize support for Covid 19 testing and vaccination instead of focusing on naysayers
- Identify, acknowledge and celebrate community-based heroes to serve as examples (modeling)
- Provide truthful and honest valid, reliable, useful, and timely information on Covid 19 on time