Submitted by the Washington State Department of Health
As a government agency, we engage with all populations across the state. Often there are so many differing and contradicting voices from these diverse communities. We are all people after all, and we bring our own privileges to the table, including our individual biases. These are obstructions, as a Latino author once aptly said, “Are in the shape of our whole selves.” What is one to do when there are finite resources and everyone is saying “me first?” Well, at the Washington State Department of Health, we have guiding principles for our public health approach to be equity and data-driven.
Evidence-based public health is a way to use both what we learn from research and what we learn from our communities to improve the health of populations. DOH seeks to practice evidence-based public health by integrating science-based interventions with community preferences for improving population health. The evidence-based decision-making process integrates the best available research evidence; the characteristics, needs, values, and preferences of those who will be affected by the intervention; and practitioner expertise and other available resources.
When it comes to the COVID-19 pandemic, this year was the first time Washington State was able to establish a Community Engagement Taskforce. DOH’s entire Community Relations & Equity team was activated since February 2020 to provide assistance to the State Emergency Response to reach more of Washington’s diverse and historically marginalized populations. The team has led and implemented several key community and equity-focused initiatives throughout this response. We will share some of our accomplishments in forthcoming BienestarWA blogs.
The COVID-19 Community Engagement Taskforce at DOH is an effort to provide timely, accurate, culturally and linguistically appropriate, and community-centric information and resources to vulnerable, marginalized, and most impacted communities statewide. We do this by using a racial equity and social justice lens and by collaborating with state and local communities, organizations, and partners to listen, engage, and respond to immediate and longer-term needs of the communities. Our equity and social justice lens invites us to prioritize four areas, the needs of populations at higher risk; access, language and culture needs; environmental factors including employment, housing and family situation; and systemic and institutional inequities that perpetuate health inequities.
One of the areas that we’ve been able to nurture in the past few months are academic partnerships. Academic partnerships with higher education institutions, researchers, advocates and community-based organizations allow CETF to leverage cross-sector resources to collect vetted scientific data. The data can help inform our planning efforts for historically marginalized and underserved communities as little is known about a new threat such as COVID-19. In April, we began participating in the research design for what would become the COVID-19 Farmworker Study. COFS is a collaborative tri-state research project coordinated by the California Institute for Rural Studies to provide a rapid response analysis of the impact of COVID-19 on farmworker communities throughout the U.S. West Coast. This past week, the California research team revealed a preliminary data summary of the 911 surveys of California farmworkers completed on July 24, 2020.
Preliminary findings from California show that contrary to popular opinions about behavior, the majority of farmworkers do wear facemasks. The data also begins to illustrate the transformation of an entire industry due to COVID-19. Click here to view a video on the COFS project.
The Washington COFS data collection team will begin to collect surveys of farmworkers throughout the state this month. If you are a farmworker or can refer farmworkers to participate in the study, please contact CETF team member Tomás Madrigal at Tomas.Madrigal@doh.wa.gov. Farmworker participants will be surveyed by promotoras (community health workers) from farmworker serving community based organizations that are part of the project’s data team. They are also eligible for a $20 incentive for their time and participation.