Meharry Medical College, Morehouse School of Medicine and ASHLIN Management Group collaborate to build COVID-19 vaccine confidence

HealthWorks program aims to increase COVID-19 vaccine rates through targeted, culturally competent outreach efforts in Georgia and Tennessee, funded by nearly $9.7 Million grant from U.S. Department of Health and Human Services


Meharry Medical College (MMC), Morehouse School of Medicine (MSM) and ASHLIN Management Group (ASHLIN) are proud to announce the creation of HealthWorks, a program to increase COVID-19 vaccine confidence in Georgia and Tennessee through targeted, culturally competent and outreach education with a focus on communities of color.


HealthWorks is funded by a nearly $9.7 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) as part of its Community-Based Workforce for COVID-19 Vaccine Program. Arletha W. Livingston (Lizana), Ph.D., MPH, MBA, director of MSM’s Innovation Learning Laboratory for Population Health and an associate professor in the Department of Family Medicine, will lead the project as principal investigator. Paul D. Juarez, Ph.D., MMC professor and director of its Health Disparities Research Center of Excellence and ASHLIN project manager Eboni E. Haynes, Ph.D., MBA, will serve as principal investigators at their respective institutions.


HealthWorks aims to reach individuals in the most vulnerable and medically underserved communities, which often have high levels of COVID-19 infections and lower-than-average vaccination rates. Over the next nine months, the initiative will engage community outreach workers, including public health professionals, patient navigators and social support specialists, to conduct education sessions, COVID-19 testing and vaccination events and other outreach efforts.


The partnership unites the broad expertise of MMC, MSM and ASHLIN with the Georgia Community Engagement Alliance (CEAL) Against COVID-19, Tennessee CEAL, state and local health departments, community organizations and other groups. The program will be conducted statewide in Georgia, with particular emphasis on Fulton and Clayton Counties in metro Atlanta. In Tennessee, socially vulnerable populations that live in 95 counties across three Grand Divisions will be targeted.


Throughout the pandemic, Meharry Medical College and Tennessee CEAL have actively engaged with the community in nontraditional ways to support their health care and health education. Through community integration of events, partnerships and relationship building activities, the two have played a vital role in Tennessee and beyond to improve vaccine hesitancy, especially for those most vulnerable.


“As the COVID-19 pandemic plays out, our best strategy for minimizing its impact is to get everyone fully vaccinated and boosted,” said Dr. Juarez. “With all of the misinformation and vaccine hesitancy that exists, this is going to be a long, drawn-out process. This program will help us prevail.”


For Morehouse, the grant will extend their current reach and significantly improve the lives and health of even more patients in need. “We are very excited and thankful to bring together community partners in Georgia and Tennessee to augment the mitigation efforts already in place to address COVID-19,” said Dr. Livingston (Lizana). “This grant is a huge boost in the support of the community-engaged health workers and represents a much-needed show of support for this under-recognized workforce, who are uniquely positioned to provide frontline support to our communities.”


ASHLIN will mobilize small businesses to help contain and mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in communities of color while building a consortium of Small Business Health Ambassadors to strengthen vaccine confidence, provide vaccine information and improve vaccination rates in Georgia and Tennessee.


With a body of work that spans over 25 years, ASHLIN is a leader in providing digital solutions and professional services to the public and private sectors. The ASHLIN Team has a long track record working with public health practitioners and small businesses. In 2013 in collaboration with the CDC, ASHLIN created the Work@Health® program, helping small and mid-sized businesses around the country to plan, develop, implement and enhance their worksite health programs. In February 2021, ASHLIN partnered with the CDC Foundation to host a panel discussion for over 200 small businesses to disseminate information to help overcome COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy.


“Given that 99 percent of firms in the U.S. are small businesses and those businesses employ almost half the nation’s workforce, we’re excited to use our digital solutions and resources to assist new Small Businesses Health Ambassadors in strengthening their companies’ preparedness and response efforts. These trained ambassadors will be critical in ensuring business continuity as well as a healthy workforce now and into the future,” said Dr. Haynes.