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Leveraging Community Expertise to Advance Health Equity: Principles and Strategies for Community Engagement

July 1, 2021

Given the COVID-19 pandemic's disproportionate effects on people of colorand increased attention to racial justice in the US, initiatives to increase health equity are sprouting up across the country (Ndugga, Artiga, and Pham 2021). These efforts range from addressing immediate health and social needs among communities most affected by the pandemic's impacts to broader and longer-range policy changes designed to eliminate systemic barriers to good health. This brief examines the role of community engagement in informing and advancing efforts to eradicate health inequities. Here, we define "community engagement" as collaborating and sharing power with communities to identify concerns and develop and implement solutions.This brief draws on interviews with representatives from national organizations, health equity experts, and stakeholders in four states, including representatives from state agencies, community-based organizations (CBOs), consumer advocacy groups, and foundations. Through these interviews, we investigated ways community engagement is being used to advance health equity and factors that promote or hinder community engagement. Many study participants expressed that community members are experts in their lives and communities who need resources and support to facilitate equitable community health and well-being. Though community engagement can take many forms, authentic and meaningful engagement in which community members are not just present but actively take part in decisionmaking requires extensive relationship and trust building that involves a significant investment of time and resources. However, interviewees acknowledged that a lack of institutional commitment, limited funding, and bureaucratic barriers impede efforts to effectively engage communities.

COVID-19 Vaccine Attitudes Among Nonelderly Adults Who Reported Being Unlikely to Get Vaccinated

June 21, 2021

With the US supply of COVID-19 vaccines having increased in recent months and demand starting to level off, most states were at or near having more vaccines available than people who want them as of May 2021. Current efforts to expand vaccine access, such as increasing vaccine supply to community health centers and facilitating access through mobile or pop-up vaccination clinics, will be key to ensuring equitable vaccine availability for communities of color and other communities at high risk of exposure to the coronavirus and death from COVID-19 (Artiga, Corallo, and Pham 2020; Corallo, Artiga, and Tolbert 2021; Dubay et al. 2020; Ndugga, Artiga, and Pham 2021). These efforts will also help the US advance toward herd immunity, meaning between 70 and 85 percent of the population is vaccinated against COVID-19. However, doing so requires sustained focus on vaccine confidence, defined as people's trust in recommended vaccines, the providers who administer vaccines, and the vaccine development process. Confidence in the COVID-19 vaccines has improved since they were first rolled out in December 2020, but about 13 percent of adults in the US still said they would definitely not get a COVID-19 vaccine as of May 2021. Another 12 percent were waiting to see how the vaccines affect people before deciding whether to get vaccinated.