Public health experts report that members of immigrant and refugee communities continue to be disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, with higher rates of infection and death. Health disparities can be associated with job type, immigration status and English proficiency. A team of Mayo Clinic medical experts and community leaders collaborated to find ways to reduce health disparities related to COVID-19. Their playbook included how to address communication gaps, identify community priorities and improve access to needed resources. They also predict that this approach will be effective in future public health emergencies and pandemics.
Key to the intervention was the involvement of community members who collaborated with medical experts to assess and respond to COVID-19 health needs, serving as trusted conduits of information to their communities, and from communities back to the medical experts.
Mayo Clinic’s medical experts and the community leaders are part of Rochester Healthy Community Partnership (RHCP), is a community-academic research program in Rochester, Minnesota, that was formed in 2004.
Mark Wieland, M.D., a community internal medicine physician at Mayo Clinic and the first author on the study, says, “Real-time, bidirectional communication between community and academic partners allowed us to respond rapidly to concerns and changing facts in a way that was driven by community priorities.”
Community leaders reported positive perceptions of the intervention, including high perceived efficacy, sustainability and adaptability over time.
Community leaders also stated that their experience working with the Rochester Healthy Community Partnership made them feel more prepared for future pandemics.
In the future, the researchers plan to further explore the potential to use community-academic partnerships to improve health equity in immigrant and refugee communities.
The Rochester Healthy Community Partnership is a community-academic partnership with a mission to promote health and well-being of the community through community-based participatory research, education and civic engagement to achieve health equity. To learn more about the Rochester Healthy Community Partnership: https://rochesterhealthy.org/