For the past two years, Esperanza has been funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) through the Community Catalyst mechanism to conduct vaccine equity work in Hunting Park. We are currently finishing the second year and have applied for a third year of funding that will start in June. The goal of this project was to increase knowledge, change attitudes and behaviors, and improve COVID and flu vaccine uptake in the Hunting Park community, with a special focus on Hispanic/Latino groups. Additionally, we have taken key findings and lessons learned from the first year to inform our activities for year 2 to increase COVID-19 and influenza vaccination rates in our neighborhood.
Our main strategy for year 2 was to develop health education and health promotion materials (i.e., flyers, pamphlets, t-shirts, postcards, posters, and sermons) directly with community representatives and community members in the form of working groups, disseminate those materials into the community with the help from the working groups, and track the reach of these materials and related activities. The materials were population specific, which means they were tailored for certain groups of people, and this depended on who the working groups interacted with the most. Esperanza also branded these materials as the Our Voices, Our Vaccines initiative. The Our Voices, Our Vaccines logo helps instill trust in the community to ensure that they are getting accurate information regarding COVID and flu.
Our working group members consist of community members from different groups. Specifically, we have representatives that are block captains, pastors, youth, business owners, and community-based organizations. They provided critical feedback on health materials and helped to ensure that the products reflected community realities in terms of beliefs, knowledge, and values about vaccines. For example, the youth vaccine working group designed a t-shirt that conveys the importance of protecting others through COVID-19 vaccination. The t-shirt says “We B4 Me” and “Get Vaxed Against COVID-19”. The youth agreed that this message conveys the importance of protecting others. Specifically, they believe it is extremely important to protect seniors and immunocompromised individuals. Additionally, the faith working group created a sermon to be used during Sunday service for the faith audience. Lastly, block captains developed a postcard to be used when they canvassed around the community. All of the working groups have done a great job and we are extremely proud of their work.
Some new partnerships have been developed with community-based organizations, Esperanza’s Environmental Steering Committee, and local radio personality Maria del Pilar. Maria del Pilar has been sharing our vaccine messaging and campaign content as a part of her weekly Saturday radio advertisements to promote vaccination and vaccine equity among Latino listeners. She has been a fixture of local Spanish radio and TV in the city and beyond for more than 33 years. Many listeners of hers have been very engaged with radio advertisements and have called in to ask questions.
We are hopeful that we will be able to continue our COVID-19 and flu vaccine work in Hunting Park and promote vaccine equity. Esperanza will leverage science to inform, support, and advocate for change, that can make a positive difference in the community.
This article is part of Esperanza’s community COVID-19 and flu vaccine project (Our Voices, Our Vaccines), which informs and engages Latinos on public health and vaccination programs impacting their well-being.