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Direct Relief and The Pfizer Foundation Support 19 Programs to Improve Infectious Disease Care in the United States



Nineteen U.S. safety-net community healthcare providers were awarded this year for their work supporting innovative approaches to infectious disease treatment. (Photo by Andrew Schoneberger)

Direct Relief announced the recipients of the 2023 Innovation Awards in Community Health: Addressing Infectious Disease in Underserved Communities. Grants totaling more than $4.5 million will go to 19 U.S. safety-net community healthcare providers to support innovative approaches to infectious disease treatment, with a focus on vaccine education and delivery.

The recipient programs span 11 U.S. states and serve communities in both urban and rural areas. Direct Relief implements the awards program, which is funded by The Pfizer Foundation, to improve access, increase outreach and education, and promote screening, testing, and treatment for vaccine-preventable infectious diseases among medically underserved populations across the United States.

“These awardees already provide essential health services for their communities, and these funds, generously provided by The Pfizer Foundation, will enable even more innovative work to take place,” said Thomas Tighe, CEO, and President of Direct Relief. “The dedication and commitment of these health providers, who work tirelessly, often with minimal recognition, is inspiring to all of us.”

“As trusted members of their communities, safety-net providers play a crucial role in expanding access to care, particularly in medically underserved communities,” said Caroline Roan, President, The Pfizer Foundation and Chief Sustainability Officer, Pfizer Inc. “We are proud to continue supporting Direct Relief and its network of health centers, which are pioneering innovative approaches to infectious disease care and advancing health equity by dismantling barriers to better health.”

2023 Award Recipients include:
AHS Health, Chicago, IL, will use the award grant to tackle health disparities through targeted immunization, outreach, and education on COVID-19, hepatitis B, influenza, and other vaccines.

C-Assist Family Health Clinic, Garden City, MI, aims to reduce vaccine disparities in marginalized populations, increase vaccine uptake, and raise public awareness through influential messengers and culturally sensitive campaigns.

Care for the Homeless, New York, NY, plans to implement The Vaccine Equal Access Project (VEAP) to address and improve vaccination health equity among homeless and unstably housed individuals living in all five NYC boroughs.

Clinica Esperanza/Hope Clinic, Providence, RI, will implement Opportune Vacuna, a program that aims to increase vaccine confidence and uptake in historically underserved communities to reduce vaccine-preventable infectious diseases.

Community Healthcare Network, New York, NY, will lead a vaccination program for the agency’s HIV population.

Community of Hope, Washington, DC, will use award funds to hire a dedicated Clinical Resource Registered Nurse who will provide ongoing education and support for adults in at-risk populations who are missing important immunizations.

Connecticut River Valley Farmworker Health Program, Boston, MA, through the Sowing Seeds of Good Health program, will address vaccine hesitancy and misinformation about primary and preventive care for farm workers.

Delta Health Center, Mound Bayou, MS, will expand its vaccination program to include flu, pneumococcal, hepatitis, measles, mumps, rubella, rotavirus, chickenpox, diphtheria, Hib, pertussis, tetanus, polio, and COVID-19.

Empower U, Miami, FL, will expand its vaccination program, focusing on hepatitis A and B, influenza, and COVID-19 prevention for patients in Liberty City and surrounding areas administered at the clinic and a mobile medical van.

Family Christian Health Center, Harvey, IL, will internally educate the community about the impact of flu, shingles, and vaccine-preventable diseases, promoting vaccination to stop the spread and save lives.

Housing Works, Brooklyn, NY, will increase access to vaccine-preventable infectious diseases among low-income New Yorkers who face multiple social and structural barriers to preventive health care.

Mallory Community Health Center, Lexington, MS, will help educate the under-resourced and uninsured communities and the surrounding areas of Lexington, Mississippi.

Miami Beach Community Health Center, Miami, FL, will address influenza and COVID-19 in diverse patients through a comprehensive health equity approach, using motivational interviewing to overcome vaccine reluctance.

Rural Health Medical Program, Selma, AL, plans to use outreach, education, mobile clinics, and health navigators to address influenza, pneumococcal disease, hepatitis A and B, sexually transmitted infections, and tuberculosis.

SAC Health, San Bernardino, CA, proposes through their program, Strategic Approach to Vaccination Excellence (SAVE), data-driven targeting of parents, guardians and their children for timely child and adolescent immunizations.

Shepherd’s Clinic, Baltimore, MD, will launch IGNITE! Fire Up Your Immunity vaccine program to combat preventable diseases with existing services for outreach, education, prevention, and administration.

Street Outreach Teams, Detroit, MI, plans to expand mobile operations to care for vulnerable populations, including houseless, mental health, substance use, sex workers, and at-risk individuals.

Symba Center, Victorville, CA, aims to reduce vaccine-preventable infectious diseases through outreach, education, and vaccination of the unhoused population in San Bernardino County.

Urban Health Plan, Bronx, NY, will provide vaccine education and improve access to screenings, testing, and treatment for those served by the network.

Direct Relief managed the application and selection process in consultation with a panel of infectious disease physicians who provided a clinical review. The finalists were selected based on scores considering geographic location, patient population size and demographics, and facility type.

The Innovation Awards in Community Health program was launched in 2020 and supported projects led by 11 safety-net community healthcare providers. Collectively, over two years, these organizations reached more than 200,000 patients, trained more than 2,000 healthcare workers, and offered lifesaving infectious disease care to more than 360,000 children and adults.

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