A nonprofit initiative aimed at connecting underserved communities to COVID-19 resources has partnered with downtown nonprofit Homeboy Industries for a community screening and vaccination site on January 19.
The initiative, myCovidMD, was launched at the start of the pandemic as an extension of the Shared Harvest Foundation, a non-profit organization under the Shared Harvest Fund, a social enterprise connecting indebted volunteers with businesses and organizations to work in exchange for debt relief.
Dr. Afoh-Manin, co-founder of the Shared Harvest Fund and myCovidMD, called the initiative a two-part solution to the pandemic. It provides disenfranchised residents with healthcare professionals through telehealth services and connects them to COVID-19 resources through contextual events.
Homeboy Industries – a non-profit organization with the largest gang intervention program in the world that focuses on improving the lives of formerly incarcerated people through rehabilitation, education and rehabilitation services and programs. health – hosted the event at its Chinatown headquarters.
The myCovidMD pop-up vaccinated approximately 150 community members and Homeboy Industries staff.
Father Greg Boyle, who founded Homeboy Industries in 1988, said, “Our partnership with Shared Harvest, myCovidMD, is important because it involves their organization providing vaccination clinics and COVID awareness for our community and those in Los Angeles. Angeles.
“Vaccinations are the disruptor of this global pandemic. With intentionality, yesterday’s clinic was a community event and members of our Homeboy community felt comfortable receiving their vaccines in the space. We are grateful to have this relationship with Shared Harvest.
Manin, whose medical work experience as an emergency physician and crisis responder during Hurricane Katrina inspired her to get involved in founding the Shared Harvest Fund and myCovidMD.
“People providing services just aren’t happy, especially people of color. They arrive with six-figure student debt, they try to navigate a hierarchical system, and they all go there with a heart of service; sometimes that heart of service gets manipulated by the healthcare system,” she said.
“I realized that we had to take care of our volunteers and the people on the front lines. The Shared Harvest model was born from the idea that we share the harvest of all our talents and skills. Through this model, we can reduce the burden of student debt and elevate the culture of volunteerism.
The pivot for creating myCovidMD has become a natural piece, fitting into the Shared Harvest model, Manin said. Volunteers or Community Health Partners (CHPs) who work with Shared Harvest Fund and myCovidMD include doctors, nurses, paramedics, therapists, social workers and other frontline healthcare providers who are concerned about inequalities and social problems.
According to Manin, CHP volunteers are instrumental in myCovidMD, and so far volunteers have helped vaccinate and test in targeted areas of South Los Angeles and East Los Angeles, including Watts, Compton and Boyle Heights. Currently, Manin said about 600 CHPs in the Shared Harvest network are active and 3,000 are registered for volunteer designation.
Although the initiative only provides COVID-19 vaccinations and boosters in LA County areas, CHPs and pop-up testing health clinics with myCovidMD are nationwide and have served areas like Oakland, Atlanta and Detroit.
“(These volunteers) are exactly the ones needed to address the health inequities that occur when black and brown communities were dying at incredibly high rates and unable to access the healthcare system,” he said. she declared.
“MyCovidMD was a vehicle to build a network of healthcare providers who cared about these inequities and wanted to find a way to create a public health safety net.”
Derek Hansbrough, Safety and Community Relations Manager at Homeboy Industries, received his booster dose at the myCovidMD community vaccination pop-up on January 19 and his first vaccination at a previous vaccination event held at Homeboy Industries.
“The only reason I got vaccinated was because they were at Homeboy Industries. It was convenient. In every city I’ve lived in and every city I drive through to work, every times I walk past test sites it seems inconvenient and hard to get,” he said.
Hansbrough has been working at Homeboy Industries for a year, going through the program and getting help with school while helping with security.
“It felt good to be at an event that embraced the community as a whole,” he said of the event. “When I went, all the workers were nice and everyone was helpful. I felt the event was welcoming and positive. It was informative and the people were warm. I never felt like I couldn’t ask a question.
Manin explained that myCovidMD testing and vaccination pop-ups not only engage underserved communities directly through health services, both in-person and online, but also through a “block party-like experience” where a certain relatability, trust and connection can be established with health care providers.
As of January 19, CDC statistics on fully vaccinated individuals, with regard to race and ethnicity, indicate that blacks, Hispanics and Latinos are low, among other ethnic groups, which would be even lower. compared to their white counterparts. Manin attributes some of these statistics to a general distrust, due to misinformation, coupled with the accessibility of resources.
Through the myCovidMD outreach initiative, more than 7,000 vaccines have been administered to people in areas disproportionately affected by LA, and approximately 13,000 COVID-19 tests have been administered nationwide, according to Manin.
The goal of block party style, COVID-19 resource pop-ups is to “demystify medicine and health care,” manifesting as an environment where music can be heard blocks away and where balloons, freebies and open communication with healthcare professionals and Shared Harvest associates are normal, even on social issues outside of medical concerns, according to Manin.
“Health is in the background, but we want people to feel comfortable and invited to join the discussion,” Manin said of the healthcare space and friendly environment. and accessible that is missing.
“The first thing is to create a connection. Be there, be present. Look like you’re part of the community, take off the white coat and blouse and strike up a conversation. We have people following us because they’re having a good time and think it’s just a block party, and on their third time they get vaccinated.
“That’s what we want to do; we are not here to judge. We want to keep the community safe and get the facts out. More importantly, we want to demystify health care because it’s not perfect.
What keeps Manin going during an era of a pandemic, when so many people are struggling in various ways, is “the human aspect,” she said.
“The best part is realizing that it’s so easy to be accessible, it makes a big difference. We make medicine so complicated.
Manin said she enjoys the culture of myCovidMD because of the real connections with community members that are forged, not just with her but with CHPs.
“What happens is that it’s not a one-time experience at pop-up events. There’s a lot of relationship building going on in the background, which helps people have more confidence,” she said.
Manin explained that CHP volunteers are available for anyone lacking resources, especially those previously vaccinated or tested through myCovidMD. These people can ask for anything from general medical advice to how to self-administer a COVID-19 test.
From a health care perspective, Manin spoke on the current state of the pandemic regarding the easily transmutable omicron variant, effectively urging a disposition of hope with sound and reasonable caution.
“We are only in the second year (of the pandemic). With omicron, we know it spreads quickly and so far it’s not impacting people as much, but that’s only on a short amount of data,” she said. declared.
“There is a twilight zone happening in hospitals. If you get vaccinated, you don’t feel the impact that we see in hospitals and emergency rooms where we see people coming in droves, some in intensive care, who are usually not vaccinated.
The doctor’s urgent caution stems from instances such as the CDC’s statement, released Dec. 27, stating that only a five-day quarantine is necessary, which is a step back from the CDC’s previous recommendation of a two-week quarantine.
Although Manin said, “There are decisions made with a business lens, which I don’t think is really smart from a health perspective,” she comes from a place of understanding, knowing CDC guidelines as an experienced health care expert. professional.
“The other thing about the CDC, which comes down to breaking down the barrier between health care and humans, is that the CDC goes back on a lot of things, but that’s okay,” he said. she explains.
“It is the natural occurrence of science; you get more data, you get more updates, and you move forward. Because I’m from this culture, it doesn’t scare me, but if you see him as (someone who is not from this culture), it creates more distrust. … That’s why we’re trying to build better relationships and break down those walls so that people can understand how to interpret science and data and not feel uncomfortable when things back down,” a- she declared.
Manin advised getting tested and wearing masks as often as possible, while recommending getting vaccinated or vaccinated.
“It’s for the community. Health care is for them. Just because someone doesn’t know all the details doesn’t mean they don’t deserve to be treated with respect and someone to sit down with them and help them figure it out,” he said. -she said about the myCovidMD mission.
“Take care of the community. Take care of each other because we are all interconnected. If we don’t all get the treatment, we’re all going to feel the impact.