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‚ÄúReceiving a vaccine cannot be such a strictly clinical experience.”

We supported 2 Aurora school based vax clinics last week:

On May 16, Arapahoe County Public Health provided vaccinations at Vaughn Elementary. The clinic team was prepared to provide the critical childhood vaccines for 22 kids. And there were very few no-shows that afternoon. 19 of those kids got vaccinated that day! 68 vaccinations were provided because of course several kids needed more than one 1 vaccine to be compliant.

Our role was to promote outreach so that parents would want to bring their non-compliant kids to the clinic. We designed and provided the clinic flier to Vaughn staff and coordinated with the school on logistics and ideas on outreach. We also brought masks and test kits from Colorado Access to Vaughn on the afternoon of the event.

Congratulations to the Arapahoe County vaccination team. See their picture below.

The next day the CAHEP Clinic/Regis University (student pharmacists and nurses passionate be part of community) vaccinated kids as well as parents and teachers and other adults at Fulton Academy of Excellence as a feature of the school’s annual carnival. We coordinated the logistics with Principal McWilliams and her team who reached out to all Fulton parents prior to the event utilizing the flier we prepared and advice on outreach.  Our approach was to take anyone, kid or adult, who were non-compliant or were eligible for vaccination according to CIIS. The team administered 150+ vaccinations that afternoon.

To score on authentic community engagement, a priority in building trust with community, we want to be partners with schools and a feature of fun school events, like the carnival. We know that if a kid is non-compliant, then their siblings are probably non-compliant, and their parents are behind on their vaccinations too! School clinics then should be opportunities not only to score on vaccination, providing opportunities to protect whole families and community members from serious diseases, but also to build trust and faith in our health systems. In a way that helps break down the health access inequity in our BIPOC communities by being more engaged with families in fun ways. And protect them from serious disease that could pass to others, teachers and students, in the school where kids spend most of their time together.

We appreciate the support of Principal McWilliams and her staff at Fulton. The next day she emailed me:

“What a wonderful addition to our school carnival!  Families were able to take care of their health needs while having a wonderful time playing games, learning about science, and listening to good music. Students got necessary immunizations in a culturally relevant way that was respectful to their needs.  We look forward to  future opportunities to provide similar services to our families.”

Attending with us at Fulton were two representatives from Immunize Colorado, Ms. Sarah Waraniak, program director, and Ms. Madelyn Wild, public health associate. Ms. Wild pointed out:

“Surrounding the clinic, children could be heard running and laughing on the playground. They could be seen chasing after their friends, getting their face painted, or even hula hooping. Many children came running up to the clinic curious to see what was going on. Julissa invited them to go find their parents and bring them over so they could join the other children in receiving their vaccines… Seeing Julissa in action demonstrated how receiving a vaccine cannot be such a strictly clinical experience, otherwise it will be harder and harder to improve Colorado’s low immunization rates.” 

Also:

  • On May 15 I spoke at the AIM (Association of Immunization Managers) Beaches Regional conference in New Orleans with participants from Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, Florida, US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. I didn’t hesitate, “Don’t congratulate yourselves until you start making real changes happen. I know you’re exhausted but look at what’s happening to our immunization rates! Let’s wake up and kick up our game!”
  • I had struck up a conversation with Kharina, my Puerto Rican/Dominican Uber driver, on the way from the airport to the conference. I asked what she thought of health care there. Her response: “Not good. Unless you speak English, you don’t count.” Later that evening at the dinner table with other conference members, I asked our Venezuelan server the same question. Same answer.
  • So in in my presentation, I also challenged health leaders on doing more to narrow the equity gap in Latino health access like we’re attempting in Colorado. In attendance was a Vietnamese-American community health RN named Quan. His table had no Latinos. I got his permission beforehand to use his name in my speech. Looking out over the audience and Nurse Quan’s table, and not seeing much diversity, I said, “And how are we going to address equity unless we’re bringing more Hispanics to the table? ‘Hey, I see Quan there but no Juan!'” Everyone laughed knowing the truth of the statement as Nurse Quan spoke out, “Yes, and I want to be put out of business!”  
  • After the conference an Alabama member wrote me, During your presentation, I realized that the approach that we were using in Alabama to reach the Hispanic community was not nearly as strong as it should be – even though we had the best of intentions.  I have gained a better understanding of how I need to approach the Hispanic community by using trusted individuals within the community to reach our public health goals (not just vaccination efforts).  We will be reaching out to more of these trusted groups/individuals in the near future to have an idea of how we can work better with the Hispanic community in Alabama.”
  • As a HCPF Equity Task Force Ambassador I’m asked to recruit Spanish speaking Health First Colorado Medicaid members to participate in focus group sessions. The members are asked to review Spanish language communications sent by Health First Colorado. We want to ensure that the communications are written with cultural accuracy, sensitivity, and are easy to understand for the members receiving them. So this was my first focus group on Saturday, May 20 . It was hosted at Salones de Belleza at 4pm, a time my community would be available. While waiting for their hair to be done (about 50 minutes) they reviewed documents with me.
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I was surprised reading these questions with participants that I did not understand many of the questions even though they are in our language! The participants told me in a funny way, “Now you know what we go thru?” There were many words that none of us understood. I had a pretty diverse group that day, from Venezuela, Colombia, Guatemala, Cuba, & Mexico. As a moderator I wanted to jump in to HELP but I know that this is not my job. I did not want to influence anyone with my way of thinking. Still we were ALL super frustrated with the forms. EVERYONE had a problem understanding what these forms were saying. My next focus group will be on May 25.

I’m continuing work with CDPHE on my cultural validation training work. I’d like to present the online training both to public health staff who interact with community as well as health care students who are passionate about wanting to know more how to connect to diverse communities.