The City of New Orleans this week was among 73 U.S. cities chosen to share $250 million in grant awards from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Minority Health (OMH) as part of a new, two-year initiative to identify and implement best practices for improving health literacy to enhance COVID-19 vaccination and other mitigation practices among underserved populations.
New Orleans' grant award is $3.9 million.
The Advancing Health Literacy (AHL) to Enhance Equitable Community Responses to COVID-19 initiative is part of the Biden/Harris Administration’s National Strategy for the COVID-19 Response and Pandemic Preparedness.
"Equity has been at the heart of our response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and while we are encouraged by our work to date, we know that work will be enduring and that we must continue to focus on our underserved populations. We'd like to thank our federal partners for helping us to continue strengthening the health literacy of our community," said Mayor LaToya Cantrell.
"As it became apparent early on that the COVID-19 pandemic would adversely impact many residents, we created a range of strategies in response to reach those in our community who have challenges accessing healthcare. From testing to vaccinations, our approach has been to meet people where they are and provide education and resources that work for them. Thanks to this federal support, we know this will continue and strengthen our ability to protect and preserve health for our residents most in need," said Dr. Jennifer Avegno, Director, New Orleans Health Department.
"The significant funding from the Office of Minority Health will allow the New Orleans Health Department to enhance our ability to expand our reach to populations hardest hit by COVID-19. The grant strategy will strengthen our collaborations will allow us to hire community health workers, utilizing evidence-based approaches to support culturally appropriate health education. This will assure that the community is engaged and involved in their health and increase understanding of COVID-19 and vaccinations. Xavier University is a major partner of the project and will be providing training to assure effective evaluation and support. Additional partners such as 504 Health Net, LSU Health Sciences Center, and the Louisiana Association for Community Health Workers will be intricate to the implementation of this work. Centering equity is critical to eliminating COVID-19 in our community. This funding over the next two years will assure that our city remains healthy for generations to come," said Dr. Torrie T. Harris, Health & Equity Strategist, New Orleans Health Department.
“The Advancing Health Literacy initiative is a vital part of the HHS efforts to help communities hardest hit by the pandemic access and understand COVID-related information,” said Assistant Secretary for Health, Dr. Rachel L. Levine, M.D. “This funding, and the partnerships with local and community entities across the country, will help our national efforts to continue to tackle health disparities surrounding COVID-19 vaccination, testing, and treatment.”
Health literacy is a person’s ability to find, understand and use information and services to help them make health-related decisions for themselves and others. Health literacy is a central focus of the Healthy People 2030 blueprint for improving the health of the nation, which is sponsored by the HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health. Healthy People 2030 has elevated health literacy within one of its overarching goals: eliminate health disparities, achieve health equity, and attain health literacy to improve the health and well-being of all.
“COVID-19 highlights the importance of health literacy, of understanding public health measures and taking steps to protect ourselves, our families, and our communities,” said Deputy Assistant Secretary for Minority Health, RADM Felicia Collins, M.D. “Our new health literacy initiative will help local governments enhance their health literacy efforts to reduce COVID-related disparities within racial and ethnic minority populations and other vulnerable communities.”
Over the next two years, awardee projects will demonstrate the effectiveness of working with local community-based organizations to develop health literacy plans to increase the availability, acceptability, and use of COVID-19 public health information and services by racial and ethnic minority populations. The projects will also focus on other populations considered vulnerable for not receiving and using COVID-19 public health information. Recipients are also expected to leverage local data to identify racial and ethnic minority populations at the highest risk for health disparities and low health literacy, as well as populations not currently reached through existing public health campaigns.
The Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health (OASH), a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, provides public health and science advice to the Secretary, and oversees the Department’s broad-ranging public health offices, whose missions include minority health, HIV policy, women’s health, disease prevention, human research protections and others. OASH also includes the Office of the Surgeon General and the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps.
The Office of Minority Health (OMH) is dedicated to improving the health of racial and ethnic minority populations through the development of health policies and programs that will help eliminate health disparities.