Effective COVID-19 response among refugee, immigrant, and migrant (RIM) populations requires relationships with communities. There may be some challenges in figuring out where to start when building or enhancing relationships with communities. One consideration for health departments includes engaging with the consulates or population-specific business organizations of RIM communities in your area.
Partnerships with Consulates
Partnerships with consulates may strengthen and leverage relationships and resources within existing RIM communities, collaborate to reinforce and promote COVID-19 prevention health messaging, and cross-share essential health information. Consulates provide services between individuals from a particular country and the host country where the consulate is located.
Consulates can provide experience and expertise within RIM communities. Leveraging the capacity within the consulates builds a trusted relationship to translate and share information. Examples for partnership with consulates include but are not limited to:
- Develop and execute information campaign through trusted community sources and platforms
- Serve on a COVID-19 response advisory council
- Launch COVID-19 or other health messaging programming
- Leverage partner networks to connect people to health services
Partnership with the Mexican Consulate in San Diego for COVID-19 Vaccination Site
In San Diego, county public health and the Mexican Consulate partnered together to create a walk-up COVID-19 vaccination site, in addition to the no-cost testing services that have been offered since September. Vaccines are administered free regardless of immigration status or citizenship. The development of this vaccination site is a part of a county program to provide additional COVID-19 services to a segment of population disproportionately affected by the pandemic. Given the unique set of challenges that undocumented immigrants face such as: misinformation, language barriers and access to technology, officials hope that this partnership will make vaccines more accessible and solidify their role as a safe space within the Hispanic and Latino community.
Partnering with the Marshallese Consulate in Arkansas
To address the on-going COVID-19 pandemic, disproportionately affecting the Marshallese community in northern Arkansas, the health department reached out to the Republic of the Marshall Islands Consulate General – Arkansas office to work on disseminating COVID-19 prevention messaging. The message was promoted by a local Marshallese doctor, both locally and in the Islands. The radio message was sent to the Marshall Islands, informing them about the situation in Northern Arkansas, encouraging the Marshallese community members to tell their family members in Arkansas to practice safe COVID-19 precautions, so that one day they could go back to their homeland. They also provided COVID-19 prevention messaging on their Marshallese Consulate-Arkansas | Facebook site.
The Mexican Consulate Network provides an existing health outreach program to Mexican people and other racial/ethnic minority groups living in the United States. This program is known as Ventanilla de Salud, “Health Windows” And operates in the waiting rooms of 49 Mexican consulates across 24 US states. Its primary outreach method is those individuals who reach the consulates. This strategy is a comprehensive health outreach model that connects medically underserved communities with partner organizations that provide health information and services. Mexico has innovatively expanded the more traditional role of consulates to include health promotion activities and leverage the consular infrastructure to better reach and serve communities across the United States. More details can be found in a recent publication.