Across the nation, cities are struggling with how to ensure that COVID-19 vaccination efforts target residents in communities that were hardest hit by the virus. COVID-19 statistics clearly demonstrate that people of color are at the highest risk for morbidity and mortality, yet vaccine numbers in those very same communities lag more affluent neighborhoods. Adults 65 and older are also at risk, yet this group often does not have the tech know-how to allow them to secure online appointments faster than younger adults.
Since mid-February, Innovative Care has established relationships with community organizations such as My Block, My Hood, My City, and Acclivus to advance an equitable vaccine distribution effort. A team of Chicago Vaccine Angels also helps seniors in need of vaccines to access appointments at Innovative Care.
“Slowing the spread of COVID-19 in Black and Latinx communities is critical to ending this pandemic. To make a difference, we must focus on vaccine access in the areas hardest hit by the virus and target people who face multiple barriers in scheduling appointments,” said Rahul Khare, MD, president and founder of Innovative Care. “We knew that we needed teams on the ground to help us accomplish greater equity, so we aligned with community groups to execute this mission.”
Populations with the most resources—such as time, technology, trusted networks, and health access—are able to navigate the scheduling system, while many people with the least amount of resources are resigned to “wait their turn.” Innovative Care is working with representatives of community areas on the South and West sides of the city. Our intention is to authentically bridge our strengths together. We bring a unique capacity in operations engineering that creates efficient healthcare delivery systems. Local non-profit organizations on the West and South sides bring tenacity, wisdom, and trust that only comes about from years of dedicated service with communities of color. Together, we hold the power and hope for a new day to come.
“We are grateful that seniors living in under-resourced communities of color are getting priority access,” said Casey Merchant, senior manager at My Block, My Hood, My City. “Innovative Care approached us to help ensure vaccines are offered to those who need them most, and together we are working to ensure weekly allocation of doses to people living in majority-Black and Latinx communities. Equity in action is possible when we are united across all 77 neighborhoods.”
The COVID-19 pandemic is impacting not only the health of medically underserved people, but also their economic livelihood. We are also committed to ensuring that living wage jobs become more accessible to people living in the poorest communities. Towards that goal, we measure our success on two factors: our capacity to hire and to promote to career pathways. Currently, 75 percent of Innovative Care employees are Black and Latinx. Our leadership team is also two-thirds people of color.
Innovative Care is advancing efforts to disrupt the reproduction of health inequities by disproportionately providing resources to people living in majority-Black and Latinx community areas who have experienced individual and collective trauma brought about during the pandemic. We believe in Chicago’s capacity to mitigate health disparities and literally save lives. Our goal is to respond to the pressing need to quickly turn the tide of inequity.