In the COVID-19 response, partnerships are essential to reaching refugee, immigrant, and migrant (RIM) communities, maximizing resources, reducing duplicating efforts, and improving the delivery of services and resources. Collaboration allows limited federal, state, and local resources to be targeted and allocated to areas that need the resources most. Likewise, it is also essential to provide information and services via channels that community members actively use and trust.
Reaching RIM Communities through Schools
K-12 schools serve as community resources to assist RIM students and families and are deeply rooted in their communities. Schools are uniquely positioned to bridge cultural and linguistic knowledge gaps for health departments. Some communities also have school-based navigators, liaisons, or social workers who help families learn about available resources, including housing, transportation, employment options, and the school district. Health departments are partnering with schools to provide services across the continuum of case investigation and contact tracing (CICT). They also offer pop-up and clinic testing sites, childhood and influenza vaccination clinics, community-based interpreters and education, and access to liaisons who offer social support. Ways to build partnerships with the RIM school community include:
- Build formal relationships with the school district’s central office to leverage your health department’s ability to support outreach and communication efforts
- Connect with Refugee Service Providers and State Refugee Health Coordinators as they often provide supplemental assistance to RIM students through technology access, tutoring, summer programs, and translated materials
Partnering with Schools in Virginia
In Virginia, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) partners with the Henrico County Health Department and the Henrico County K-12 school district in performing outreach and community education. They believe that schools are central to COVID-19 outreach, so translated materials are distributed to the community through the school district. Some schools have liaisons that translate health department materials into additional languages while also adding culturally-appropriate information. Families with children enrolled in the school district can receive updated school and health information in their preferred languages, daily. In addition to sending health information updates via text and Facebook, the school district also began holding regular Zoom meetings to update families about COVID-19 in multiple languages with interpretation services provided through the IRC and health department.
Leveraging School-Based Clinics in Washington
HealthPoint, a federally-qualified health center (FQHC) in King County, Washington, collaborates with Seattle and King County Public Health Departments, and King County Schools to improve healthcare access and health equity in their RIM communities by offering school-based health centers. Before COVID-19, they provided vaccinations, primary care, mental health counseling, health screening and education, and other services in their school-based clinics. Since COVID-19, the school-based clinics have added easy-access outdoor testing at primary care clinics and high-volume outdoor testing centers open to their community members. People who are positive for COVID-19 are matched with FQHC patient access coordinators/patient navigators who connect them to support services and quarantine facilities through the health department.
Partnering with Schools in Iowa
Linn County Public Health partners with school nurses and RIM community school liaisons as trusted resources for referrals and health communications. Community health providers can provide culturally- and linguistically-appropriate health information to the school partners, sharing resources with students and parents. The relationship also builds trust to support the case investigation and contact tracing (CICT) process. For example, when Linn County Public Health calls as parent or guardian at home for CICT, the parent will often ask the school liaison whether it is safe to respond, according to Heather Meador, clinical branch supervisor. The liaison can explain the CICT process and reassure the parent that the health department is just trying to help. “They help bridge a [knowledge] gap,” said Meador. The school liaisons and nurses provide a critical communication link between the health department and the schools when there are investigations of COVID-19 cases and close contacts