Austin Public Health’s approach to lessen the uneven effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and to equitably distribute vaccines is guided by data and driven by collaborations. We center racial equity and focus on the human experience. Our goal is to get vaccines and boosters to all those who are eligible while placing high priority on those most impacted.
Austin Public Health (APH) takes a comprehensive, collaborative approach to address racial and ethnic disparities in the health effects of COVID-19. To support access to testing and vaccination while building community resilience, APH works through partnerships and resource-sharing. APH has listened to and developed working relationships with key community-based organizations to reach populations most impacted by the pandemic. Additionally, the department continuously trains and deploys Community Health Workers (CHWs) at a neighborhood level to speak face-to-face, listen, dispel myths and connect people to needed resources. APH uses data and guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control to contribute to communities’ overall health and well-being.
With guidance and support of the CDC, APH will focus its health equity efforts on priority populations placed at higher risk for COVID-19 and other severe outcomes. Our goals are:
- To increase the vaccination rates among priority populations.
- To reduce the uneven burden of COVID-19 among populations at increased risk for infection, severe illness, and death.
- To broadly address health disparities and inequities related to COVID-19 with a holistic and comprehensive approach.
Using data to identify populations most severely impacted by COVID-19.
APH’s data show that COVID-19 has become the leading cause of death for the Hispanic/Latinx community. Hispanic/Latinx individuals have the highest percentage of both confirmed cases and deaths. Both Hispanic/Latinx and Black/African American communities are unevenly impacted by poverty and chronic disease.
APH focuses on the following priority populations through intensive outreach and interventions
- Hispanic/Latinx communities
- Black/African American communities
- People living below the Federal Government Poverty Level
- People with chronic conditions and at higher risk for COVID-19
- Hard to reach populations
- People experiencing homelessness
- Refugee and Limited English Proficient populations
Data show that over 30% of Austin-area households speak a language other than English in the home. APH is aware that many community members may not be able to access our services in English. APH’s Language Access team staffs and monitors interpreter services, including in-person, voice, and video to ensure that community members can receive all information in their preferred language.
We invite you to explore the data that APH uses to drive community-centered intervention.
Using data to identify areas most severely impacted by COVID-19, including those with limited testing and vaccination resources.
Based on low vaccination rates of the eligible population and populations with the highest risk for COVID-19 and severe outcomes, APH is prioritizing efforts in the following zip codes: 78602,78617, 78660, 78664, 78705, 78721, 78724, 78724, 78741, 78744, 78745, 78752, 78753 and 78758. Focusing on these specific communities is central to increasing equity and ensuring that the greater Austin community is protected against COVID-19.
- Community-Based Testing and Vaccination Sites: COVID-19 testing and vaccination locations are conveniently located in neighborhoods that have experienced the highest number of cases of COVID-19 in Austin. This place-based focus for testing allows APH to meet people where they are, reduce transportation and time barriers to accessing services, and staff services in community languages. In addition to operating standing sites, you will find us at schools, neighborhood markets and at community-based organizations. For our latest community-based sites, visit https://www.austintexas.gov/covid19.
Equitable access means shifting from a “one-size fits all approach” to employing strategies that address systemic gaps and barriers.
- Walk-Up Clinics: APH offers convenient vaccination and testing services with language services and no appointment needed. This approach provides flexibility and reduces barriers for those with limited access to the computer and internet.
- Equity Line: The APH Equity Line provides language-appropriate testing and vaccination registration, scheduling assistance and technical support for those who may not have access to the internet, computer, or are not tech-savvy. To utilize this service, residents can call 3-1-1 or 512-972-5560.
- Focused Texting: APH is working with a texting company to contact residents, with a focus on the Eastern Crescent, who may not have access to internet services, giving them information on how to contact APH for registration/account assistance, including information on the multiple language services that are provided.
- Mobile Vaccine Program: We have partnered with many organizations to make vaccines as accessible as possible. If an organization is interested in hosting APH for a language-appropriate pop-up vaccination clinic, please complete this Austin Public Health Mobile Vaccination Request form.
- Vaccination Education Outreach: Part APH’s comprehensive strategy is education and dialogue with most impacted communities. APH offers COVID-19 vaccination education. Please complete this form if you are interested in hosting a COVID-19 education class at your facility.
- Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Distribution: To ensure that our communities are protected with PPE during the height of the pandemic, APH hosted an average of one PPE event a week in areas with high COVID-19 positivity rates based on testing data. The distributions provided over 149,000 hand sanitizers, masks and educational materials to over 29,000 families in 20 unique zip codes.
Community Health Workers and Community Engagement
According to the American Public Health Association, Community Health Workers (CHW) are frontline public health workers who are trusted members of the communities they serve. This relationship, and CHWs’ deep understanding of the people they serve, enable the workers to act as active links to health and social services. APH trains, engages and deploys Community Health Workers to reach priority populations at a neighborhood level to increase vaccination rate and to address social determinants of health (SDOH). These are social and economic drivers that contribute to health outcome. Every day, CHWs are doing coordinated SDOH assessments, tabling, block walking, distributing flyers, conducting presentations and engaging in one-on-one conversations.
In addition to our CHW program, APH supports five (5) funded CHW positions at affordable housing communities and federally qualified health centers.
Recognizing a community-centered approach is built on intentional partnership with community organizations.
APH is actively establishing partnership with the following local organizations to provide culturally relevant vaccine outreach and engagement:
- Vaccine Outreach & Engagement Partners
- African American Youth Harvest Foundation (AAYHF)
- Austin Asian Community Health Initiative (AACHI)
- Austin Groups for the Elderly of Central Texas (AGE)
- Austin Voices for Education and Youth (AVEY)
- Communication Services for the Deaf (CSD)
- El Buen Samaritano Episcopal Mission (El Buen)
- Integral Care
- Latinitas, Inc. (Latinitas)
- People for Change Texas (PCT)
- South Asian’s International Volunteer Association (SAIVA)
- Texas Folklife Inc. (TF)
- Together Austin (VaxTogether)
Culturally Responsive Outreach and Services
- To reach the Hispanic and Latinx community, APH places advertisements in Latinx/Hispanic media focus.
- APH is also working with local television, print and radio outlets to specifically reach the priority communities.
- On social media, APH hosts a monthly Facebook Live event, called MY API Live to bring accessible, pertinent information to Austin’s diverse communities in multiple languages. In addition to providing accurate and up-to-date COVID-19 information, it also a space for viewers to reflect and connect with the body and the mind. We invite you to tune in on the 2nd Friday of every month at 10 a.m. on APH’s Facebook page. For live interpretation in Burmese, please call 512-768-8862. For live interpretation in Vietnamese, please call 512-729-6206. For live interpretation in Mandarin, please call 512-846-7161. Previous episodes may be viewed on the MY API Live playlist.
Culturally and Linguistically Relevant Services
- Vaccination and testing sites have bilingual, trained in-person Spanish medical interpreters available.
- American Sign Language is offered at testing and vaccination sites either through in-person interpretation or via video-based live interpretation.
- Over two hundred additional languages are offered by trained interpreters at testing and vaccination sites either via video or voice connection. Vaccination forms are translated into Spanish and additional Asian languages.
- The Equity Line has over-the-phone interpretation services available to take calls from callers in over 200 languages.
- The vaccination portal has six languages users can choose from to register for the vaccine, including English, Spanish, Korean, Burmese, Vietnamese, and Chinese.
- APH has invested in a Full Time Personnel to coordinate language access for COVID-19-response
- Vital health information and flyers are translated into eight languages. You can find communication toolkits here.
- To get help registering for the vaccine in their preferred language. Residents may call 3-1-1, which can support over 240 languages
Letter of Support for Trans and Non-binary Youth in Austin and Travis County
Austin Public Health has issued a letter of support for the trans and non-binary youth in our community.