Great Plains Quality Innovation Network was asked to share this letter with healthcare providers and community partners in the Dakotas on behalf of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).
The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the egregious and long-standing inequities that exist across the United States—inequities that have a profound effect on the physical, social, economic and emotional health of racial and ethnic minority groups, LGBTQ+* persons, people who use drugs, people experiencing homelessness, people who are incarcerated or detained, people who do sex work, and others. We have known these inequities exist, and we know that we must continue our work to implement programs and activities to create more equitable access to information and testing, treatment, and care services that will reduce barriers and ensure better health outcomes for all.
Today, we are getting closer to ending the COVID-19 pandemic. We have vaccines available that provide protection against disease. It is our responsibility to ensure equitable distribution and administration, especially for those most at risk for this disease and most affected by the barriers of lack of access and information, stigma, distrust, and fear.
We need your help to reach these populations to ensure no one is left behind. CDC recently developed the following materials:
- COVID-19 Vaccine Equity: Best Practices for Community and Faith-based Organizations is a two-page document that provides an overview of the many tactics that can be employed to ensure access, cultural appropriateness, language sensitivity, community involvement, and support.
- A Guide for Community Partners includes potential strategies, interventions, and ready-made messages and materials, as well as information on who and how to connect with others in efforts to increase COVID-19 vaccination confidence and access in communities.
- Toolkit for Correctional and Detention Facilities provides guidance and tools to help administrators of correctional and detention facilities make decisions and protect and communicate with staff, people who are incarcerated, and their communities.
While these resources are intended to help us achieve equity in our vaccination goals, much of the content is applicable to our public health work for a broad spectrum of diseases and health challenges.
Each of you is part of a critical network of local, faith-based, population-specific, or other organizations who are members of these communities. I encourage you to review these documents and adapt the tools, recommendations and suggestions for your community.
As diverse, local, effective organizations, you have the capability to reach every person in the communities you serve. We are with you in this effort. Thank you for all you have done to protect people from COVID-19 over the last 15 months and your ongoing commitment to prevent and control the devastating toll of HIV, viral hepatitis, STDs, and TB.
Deron C. Burton, MD, JD, MPH (CAPT, USPHS)
National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
*LGBTQ+ = Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, and others