The Jackson County Legislature has appropriated about $5 million in CARES Act funding to a project led by the University of Missouri-Kansas City to promote and deliver widespread COVID-19 vaccinations and other health services to neighborhoods on Kansas City’s east side, the city’s most socially vulnerable community.

Our Healthy KC Eastside (OHKCE) has been developed through a community-engaged process that included input from 10 meetings with community stakeholders across the east side. Jannette Berkley-Patton, Ph.D., professor in the UMKC School of Medicine and director of the university’s Health Equity Institute, is leading the project.

The project’s primary goals are to address vaccine hesitancy and health inequities in portions of Jackson County identified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as having exceedingly high socially vulnerable index scores. The project will run from June 1 until Nov. 31.

“We are eager for the opportunity to partner with Jackson County on this project, and address health disparities related to COVID,” said UMKC Chancellor Mauli Agrawal. “Thanks to Dr. Jannette Berkley-Patton and her research, we have a clear understanding of the challenges and opportunities ahead of us - and the critical relationships that will ensure the program’s success.”

The COVID-19 education, communication and vaccination project will work with partners including Truman Medical Centers, the Kansas City Health Department and the Black Health Care Coalition. Other UMKC partners include the schools of Pharmacy, Medicine, Dentistry and Nursing and Health Sciences; Center for Neighborhoods, Multicultural Student Services Center and Roos Advocating for Community Change.

To reach people in the community, the project will engage with more than 120 community leaders and liaisons in east side neighborhoods, including businesses, churches, neighborhood associations and youth organizations.

According to the university’s funding proposal,  the east side has experienced some of the highest rates of COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations and deaths in Jackson County while low vaccination rates persist. COVID-19 has also contributed to a drastic reduction in use of preventive health services.

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