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Community Care Connection’s Pandemic Response Honored by Association of American Medical Colleges

Efforts by RFU’s Community Care Connection to provide health services and expand COVID-19 vaccination outreach to underserved communities received a third-prize honor in the 2022 Innovations that Bolster Community Trust in Science Awards from the  Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC).

The CCC’s entry, titled “A Pivot to Reduce COVID-19 Vaccine Hesitancy and Improve Health Equity,” was submitted by Judith A. Potashkin, PhD, who highlighted the work of Martin Yorath, DPM, and Lupe Rodriguez, APN, both of whom provided leadership on COVID mitigation programs throughout the pandemic.

“RFU’s Community Care Connection (CCC) is a free, mobile health program that serves medically underserved communities — particularly communities of color and people with limited mobility — in Lake County, Illinois,” Dr. Potashkin wrote in her submission. “In 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the CCC shifted its operations to address the most pressing needs in the county: to reduce COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy and increase access to vaccinations.

“Building upon its trusted reputation, the CCC set out to dispel misconceptions about the vaccines by setting-up pop-up clinics at partner locations and delivering presentations about the benefits of the vaccines while making it easy for patients to register for and receive vaccinations,” the submission added. “These services were particularly needed within the county’s African American and Latinx communities where COVID-19 cases were significantly higher than the general population.”

Data provided by the CCC reports that pre-COVID, the program treated approximately 2,100 patients each year and performed an average total of 6,200 health indicator screenings. During the pandemic, more than 10,000 COVID tests were administered by RFU’s Health Clinics, including 2,000 by the CCC. From February 2021 through Aug. 15, 2021, the CCC provided more than 2,600 COVID-19 vaccinations among hard-to-reach populations, with its Care Coach circulating to 30 sites that included village halls, schools, senior centers, shelters, food pantries, social service agencies, libraries, churches and community centers.

Dr. Yorath praised his colleagues for delivering critical regional services during the global health crisis.

“This was real work by a highly committed, passionate team who I am proud to call my colleagues, and who take the Care Coach out in all weathers to serve our community,” Dr. Yorath said. 

According to the AAMC, this year’s ninth annual Innovations award program was focused on “pioneering approaches to bolstering community trust and engagement in scientific developments that promote human health. A major goal of the award for the AAMC is to create opportunities for dissemination of innovative models and peer learning opportunities.”

AAMC officials added that the 2022 award cycle saw the highest number of applications to date. The CCC will receive a $1,000 cash prize along with the third-prize honor.

Posted March 7, 2022
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