A global nonprofit health organization is investing in health care for low-income black belt communities after recognizing health disparities in the United States during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Health partners, a group that typically funds efforts to expand clinical care in other countries, hires 40 healthcare workers in Alabama to work in low-income communities.
“We are at an inflection point in the country in terms of COVID, really opening a lot of eyes and opening space to define a broader and more ambitious health equity agenda,” said Katie Bollbach, Executive Director of Partners in Health.
The effort is part of a $ 21 million pilot investment in health systems in the United States to build the capacity of public health services, as well as mentor health workers from the communities they serve. . The initiative aims to tackle social issues, such as nutrition and housing, that lead to poor health outcomes.
“Community health workers serve as essential bridges between communities and wider health and social service providers,” Bollbach said.
The organization, which works with 11 countries, will now fund health efforts in Alabama, Illinois, Florida, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Arizona.
“They will be people recruited from the communities they serve and representative of the neighborhoods, cities, towns in which they work.”
Partners in Health is currently working with the Alabama Department of Public Health and the City of Montgomery on an immunization awareness campaign.
With additional funding from the state’s Department of Health CDC, the group will expand its work in Montgomery to several black belt counties. The initiative will continue to focus on near-term COVID-19 efforts, but has a long-term goal of tackling chronic diseases, like diabetes, with other federal and philanthropic funding sources.
“(The goal is to) mobilize and advocate for needs and ensure equal and quality access to essential services in historically underserved communities or neighborhoods,” she said.
“Being able to have someone who looks like you, and has a similar lived experience, helps navigate our very complex, Byzantine social health service systems (is the goal).”
Bollbach said this was the first time Partners in Health had focused its resources at home, a direct result of lessons from COVID-19.
“I think usually in places overseas where we work, we spend a lot of time advocating and developing the delivery of clinical care,” she said.
“Here in the United States, we have a lot of money in our clinical care systems and an abundance of care, but just deeply inequitable access to those resources.”