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KU Medical Center assists community partners in launching campaign against COVID-19 in multiple languages across Kansas

June 22, 2021

By Yvonnes Chen and Paloma Martínez Crespo

Screen capture from video featuring Leylah Ndinda, with her title on the screen in Swahili
Leylah Ndinda, a community health worker who works with the East African community in Wyandotte County, is part of the multimedia campaign "Community Workers Beat the Virus." She hosted and narrated videos in English and in Swahili to encourage COVID-19 testing and vaccination in under-resourced populations. This particular screen capture from the video shares her title in the Swahili language.

Community health workers and health equity teams across Kansas have partnered with the University of Kansas Medical Center to launch a multimedia campaign "Community Health Workers Beat the Virus" in seven different languages to encourage COVID-19 testing and vaccination among under-resourced populations.

This initiative is part of the Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics for Underserved Populations (RADx-UP) program. KU Medical Center announced in October that it was one of 32 institutions nationwide to receive a $3.5 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) through the RADx-UP program to support projects designed to rapidly implement COVID-19 testing and vaccination strategies in populations disproportionately affected by the pandemic.

Counties participating in RADx-UP Kansas are Crawford, Douglas, Finney, Johnson, Lyon, Riley, Saline, Sedgwick, Seward, and Wyandotte. While the campaign is beginning first in Johnson, Sedgwick, Seward and Wyandotte counties, the idea is to encourage it in all participating counties.

On the frontlines of serving others

"Community health workers and promotores de salud have been on the frontlines helping the most underserved during the pandemic," said Mariana Ramirez, one of the co-Investigators in RADx-UP Kansas. "As trusted messengers, we could not have asked for better leaders to spearhead this campaign. Our communities trust them because they have been alongside helping them through the pandemic. In this campaign, they attest to the struggles of their clients and make a sincere invitation to people to take care of each other by getting tested and vaccinated."

The campaign spotlights stories from nine community health workers in seven languages (English, Spanish, Swahili, Portuguese, Hindi, Nepali, Dzongkha) to address health disparities highlighted by the pandemic and opportunities to close the gap. Inspired by the lived experiences of community health workers helping their clients during the pandemic, these health workers address crucial topics about vaccination and testing in culturally and linguistically appropriate ways.

"Having community health workers talk to different communities in their language makes these communities realize that they are recognized as part of the bigger Kansas community and that they are not forgotten," said Leylah Ndinda, a community health worker who works with the East African community in Wyandotte County.

Delivering accurate information

Campaign messaging ranges from debunking the myths of vaccination, to emphasizing testing importance, to protecting loved ones. It will be released across traditional and digital media to encourage testing and vaccination among different populations in rural and urban communities, including those that are racially and ethnically diverse, those with lower social-economic status, and those that have immigrants and migrant workers.

"The key word to beat the pandemic is education," Ramirez said. "Disseminating accurate information and providing resources to the under-resourced populations can help combat the negative impact the pandemic has had on these populations."

Sharing empathy and building trust

"As a community health worker, we can relate to our community and have their trust," said Guadalupe Tredway, one of the featured individuals who serves the Hispanic community in Wyandotte County. "They know we can provide sites and resources where they can find reliable information in their own language so that they can make a decision based on knowledge."

Many of these community health workers also have been negatively impacted by the virus. Their empathy helps get the messages across. "We understand how the fear of the unknown can be overwhelming and crippling," said Essence Miller, a community health worker serving the African American community. "The inclusion of different ethnicities and nationalities will help dispel some myths and skepticism about COVID-19 in these minority groups. My hope is that the more that minority groups see themselves, the more apt they will be to get tested and to get vaccinated to help end the spread of COVID-19."

The RADx-UP Kansas team, based out of KU Medical Center in Wyandotte County, was assisted in the taping and production of the videos by professional videographers and producers from The University of Kansas Health System, who performed the work pro bono. "We chose to assist with this project because of how important testing and vaccination are to our entire state," said Jill Chadwick, director of media relations at the health system. "It's critical that under-served communities receive the support and education they need."

Last modified: Jun 24, 2021
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