Serving the underserved

Woman assisting an older man using a laptop

The COVID-19 virus has driven home the consequences of systemic inequities in the nation’s health care system. Pacific Islanders, the Latinx community, African Americans, and Indigenous people all have a death rate from COVID-19 double or more that of white or Asian Americans

Each year our community benefits totals—which include the cost of charity care provided by Emory Healthcare and the investment in teaching and research within the Woodruff Health Sciences Center—reflect the university’s deep investment in, and care for, the diverse communities we serve.

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Access Mobile

Woman riding bus while talking on mobile phone

To support communities of color in the greater Atlanta region, Emory and access.mobile have created an easily scalable mobile-engagement campaign to reach individuals on their phones in a preferred and trusted way, thus creating better health care access during the pandemic’s reign.

The Emory group calls itself the Health DesignED: The Acute Care Design and Innovation Center, and it seeks out collaborative innovation projects that reimagine the acute-care continuum and intentionally serve the needs of diverse patient populations.

Through Emory’s Collaborative Community Outreach and Health Disparities Group, the partners are working directly with community-anchor organizations in metro Atlanta to provide critical and timely COVID-19 information about prevention strategies, online symptom checking, mobile testing sites, contact tracing, and community- based or telehealth services.

Building on the impact of Emory’s COVID-19 symptom checker, C19check.com, Access Mobile (access.mobile.io) and Emory are creating versions of the symptom checker for those with limited or no access to internet.

The SMS- and USSD-based versions stratify patients based on their symptoms and provide localized recommendations and resources tailored to their profile. The engagement solution offers health data about potential outbreaks and dynamic public health messaging, and it can support contact tracing and vaccine or treatment education.

“We need to create equitable tech-enabled care, especially in the context of COVID-19,” says Monique Smith, founding director of Health DesignED. “That is why we are partnering with access.mobile to drive innovation and improve health equity.”

COVID-19 Health Equity Dashboard

Screenshot of COVID-19 health equity dashboard

So well respected is the COVID-19 Health Equity Dashboard developed at Emory that it is listed on the CDC website. Shivani A. Patel, assistant professor of global health at Emory’s Rollins School of Public Health, leads the team that developed the dashboard. The tool synthesizes information to guide localized response to the epidemic over time. As Patel notes, “Our goal was to go beyond describing COVID-19 incidence in communities. We wanted to fill in the gaps about the interplay between the health outcomes and the underlying social determinants and other vulnerabilities.”

Shivani Patel, Rollins School of Public Health
Shivani Patel

On the dashboard’s homepage, users can see a snapshot of COVID-19 deaths across the country. Selecting a state brings up a map displaying COVID-19 mortality by county. Drilling down, users can select a county to see how it compares to the rest of the state and to the country in average daily cases and deaths, and in characteristics such as percentage of African American residents as well as percentage who live in poverty, are obese, or have diabetes.

Going forward, Patel and her team plan to parse that data into a subcounty level. For example, she is working with the Georgia Department of Public Health to break down COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths by race, age, and neighborhood.

Says Patel, “This dashboard could help officials assess whether local response to COVID-19 is equitable across communities. It will provide data to decide where testing sites should be located or how to prioritize populations now that vaccines are available.”

Reaching the Latinx community

Ingrid Pinzon, medical director of care coordination and hospitalist at Emory Johns Creek Hospital, knows the odds for members of the Latinx community who develop COVID-19, and has been doing all she can to spread the word about ways they can protect themselves.

Ingrid Pinzon
Ingrid Pinzon

Latinx communities make up 18.5 percent of the US population but nearly 31 percent of COVID-19 cases. The numbers in Georgia are similar.

Pinzon and other bilingual Emory Healthcare physicians are going to food drives and festivals organized by the Latin American Association and other groups—talking to people in Spanish about how to wear masks, social- distance, and recognize the symptoms.

Says Pinzon, “I see myself in my Latinx patients. When I arrived here, I did not know any English. I have the opportunity as a Hispanic doctor to add value to a resilient community, ensuring that my patients’ questions about COVID-19 and other conditions are answered in a way they understand.”

The ‘Caregiving during crisis’ project

Nursing faculty members Carolyn Clevenger, Fayron Epps, and Ken Hepburn are developing an online course for family members and friends caring for those with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias during times of crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic.

The course will train caregivers in three areas: the establishment and maintenance of what the developers call a Safe Home environment (including infection control, safely leaving and reentering one’s home, and how to manage visitors); navigating the health care system on behalf of the person with dementia; and strategies to guide behavior and create activities that add to the pleasure of someone living with dementia.

A personal milestone becomes a community one

Kim Manning, Emory School of Medicine
Kimbery Manning

Kimberly Manning, Emory School of Medicine professor, turned 50 in 2020. Ordinarily, that would be a cause for celebration only to those closest to her. But as she thought about another milestone in her life—the fact that last year marked 20 years of service at Grady Hospital—Manning made a wish online that went like this: “My 50th birthday dream is to raise $50,000 for the Grady COVID-19 Response Fund by the end of September 2020. Given the disproportionate impact that COVID-19 has had on the Black community, this is personal to me. I hope you’ll let it be personal to you too.”

She cited Grady’s status “as the only hospital system that turns no one away regardless of ability to pay”and promised that dollars received would support patient care, medical supplies, testing resources, and staff support.

Contributors eclipsed the $50,000 goal easily; the fund now boasts more than $200,000. Though Manning was honored to help the larger community, in some sense she sees it as repayment. As she notes, “Everyone knows that Grady saves lives. But for the past 20 years, Grady Hospital has saved my life too. I am better for being here, serving here, teaching here, and growing here.”