UTAH, March 3, 2021 (Gephardt Daily) — Intermountain Healthcare and Maverik are joining together to donate $2 million in funding to support a Utah Department of Health program to mitigate the spread and negative impact of COVID-19 and support vulnerable community members.
Community health workers are actively addressing the health disparities among communities of color that have widened during the COVID-19 pandemic, said a news release from Intermountain Healthcare. They help people from different cultures and language backgrounds access the service, the news release said. Health workers also identify and address COVID-19 positive patients’ needs to help them be socially isolated and remain housed.
The Utah Department of Health COVID Communities Partnership (CCP) is a program developed by the UDOH Office of Health Disparities. UDOH will use the funding to support the community-based organizations and local health departments that are a part of the CCP project.
“Since the beginning of the pandemic, we moved quickly to establish a response,” said Dulce Diez, director of the Office of Health Disparities at the Utah Department of Health. “Community health workers were identified as a necessary component to help mitigate the spread and effects of COVID-19 on underserved and underrepresented communities, particularly racial/ethnic minority communities.”
“This project was funded by the CARES Act until December 2020. We could not stop the project at the end of the year leaving all these vulnerable families without help. Thanks to the altruism of Intermountain Healthcare and Maverik, we can keep the project running for the first part of 2021 until additional federal funding becomes available.”
In Utah, racial and ethnic minorities have the highest case rates, hospitalization rates, and mortality rates based on population sizes. Information obtained from the Utah Department of Health, as of Dec.18, 2020, show:
- The Hispanic population accounted for 23.8 percent of COVID-19 cases in Utah while accounting for 14.2 percent of the state’s population.
- Hospitalization rates of Pacific Islanders/Hawaiian Natives were 91.1 per 1,000 cases of COVID-19 cases. This is double the statewide hospitalization rate of 40.1 per 1,000 cases.
- Mortality rates of Native Americans — 68.0 per 100,000 — are more than two times as high as the 29.6 per 100,000 mortality rate of white community members.
COVID diagnoses could have unexpected impacts. Some cases could be minor, other cases could mean long hospitalizations or long term follow-up care. To some families, this could mean a loss of income, an inability to cover rent, groceries, and utilities, or create social stigma for the family.
“Some people need access to groceries or assistance with utilities while they can’t work,” said Leslie Salamanca Sotelo, a community health worker with the Association for Utah Community Health. “We visit with them, get to know their immediate needs, and provide the relief that allows them to focus on healing,”
From May to November 2020, more than 7,000 families received referrals to resources. In that same period, community health workers engaged in over 3,000 outreach activities resulting in a community reach of nearly two million Utahns.