United Way of the National Capital Area Launches Comprehensive Program to Reduce COVID-19 Infection and Death Rates in Black and Brown Communities in the DC Area

Program to include equitable access to and distribution of COVID-19 testing and vaccinations throughout the region; removing barriers by providing free transportation and education

Kick-off June 17, at “Juneteenth: Dancing to the Beat of a Different Drum” celebration, town hall and health fair at Covenant Baptist UCC

June 17, 2021 United Way of the National Capital Area (United Way NCA) today announced a comprehensive expansion program to reduce the number of COVID-19 cases and death rates affecting Black and Brown communities throughout the DC area. United Way NCA convened Quest Diagnostics, CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield (CareFirst) and Deloitte, all of whom made significant investments for equitable access to and distribution of COVID-19 testing and vaccinations throughout the region while removing barriers by providing free transportation and education.

“In DC, Black residents account for more than 80% of COVID-19 cases—a number that has nearly doubled since last year—compared to the 10% drop since December for white people,” said Rosie Allen-Herring, President and CEO, United Way NCA. “Your United Way NCA has convened participating organizations to provide not just access to COVID-19 testing, but now access to and distribution of the vaccine. We are incredibly grateful for the groundswell of investments from our collaborators in helping to reduce the number of COVID-19 cases in Black and Brown communities across the region. The work we are doing today and moving forward are examples of the actions we’re all taking together to provide equitable health care access to those who have been historically under-resourced and ignored.”

The program kicks off with today’s “Juneteenth: Dancing to the Beat of a Different Drum” event, in association with Leadership Council for Healthy Communities at Covenant Baptist UCC from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. An in-person town hall will also begin at 11 a.m. and will feature Dr. Melissa Clarke and Dr. Monique Powell-Davis, who will address questions, concerns and uncertainties on COVID-19 testing and vaccinations. The goal of the town hall is to encourage participants to share learned information with friends, family members and neighbors who are hard to reach or hesitant about vaccinations. Ultimately, the goal of United Way NCA’s program is to ensure no one is left behind when it comes to education and access.

Today’s event is the first of a weeklong series of Juneteenth celebrations that will also provide COVID-19 testing, vaccinations, education and resources. A full schedule of events is available by visiting www.UnitedWayNCA.org/access.

United Way NCA’s program uses a four-pronged approach to reduce COVID-19 cases in Black and Brown communities, including testing, vaccinations, free transportation by Lyft and education and awareness. The program began with United Way NCA’s participation in the Choose Healthy Life Black Clergy Action Plan (CHL)—a historic multi-city initiative that aims to raise awareness and educate the Black community on COVID-19 and other health disparities, develop infrastructure and advocacy and, most importantly, provide access to COVID-19 testing for high-risk communities through the Black church, the oldest and most trusted institution in the Black community.

Specifically, starting in February with an initial investment from Quest Diagnostics and the Quest Diagnostics Foundation, United Way NCA partnered locally with Reverend Frank Tucker from First Baptist Church and member of the Choose Healthy Life Clergy Council to identify and mobilize 10 Black churches in Maryland and DC to support uninsured or underinsured African Americans through community mobilization. Each church is staffed with a Public Health Navigator and led by a Health Navigator Supervisor from Mary’s Center here in DC.

With these new investments, the program has expanded into a region-wide effort to ensure equitable access to COVID-19 resources.

“We are proud to support this initiative, helping United Way NCA use its network to expand access to health care where it’s needed most,” said Mandell Jackson, General Manager, Quest for Health Equity. “By working together we can reduce the number of COVID-19 cases throughout the region, and longer term, provide enhanced testing services to improve the overall health of Black and Brown communities throughout the DC area,” Jackson said.

Additionally, CareFirst, as part of its “Better Together Campaign,” joined United Way NCA’s effort to increase the availability of vaccinations throughout the Washington, DC, Maryland and Northern Virginia regions. CareFirst’s long-term goal is to combat other chronic diseases, such as diabetes and hypertension, facing communities impacted by racial inequities and build on United Way NCA’s current program to close the equity gap in health care beyond COVID-19.

“CareFirst is thrilled to be the first partner to support the expansion of United Way NCA’s program; this is a critical opportunity to provide investments that directly influence health outcomes, like education and economic opportunity,” said Destiny-Simone Ramjohn, Vice President of Community Health and Social Impact, CareFirst, “We are committed to ensuring improvements in the overall health and wellbeing of our neighbors and the communities we serve now and moving forward. Impressive, sustained change is possible when we work together.”

Deloitte’s investment provides capacity to expand vaccinations beyond the 10 churches to cover more of the region, amplify education and awareness and eliminate access barriers by providing free rides through United Way’s Ride United program for those in need of transportation to testing and vaccination sites.

“We are truly excited about our collaboration with United Way NCA, which represents how the Deloitte Health Equity Institute will fulfil our purpose to advance health equity for communities of color,” said Dr. Kulleni Gebreyes, Director of the recently launched Deloitte Health Equity Institute.

“And, as a major stakeholder and employer in the Greater Washington Area, it’s one of our core priorities to drive local impact in association with other ecosystem actors like United Way NCA,” added Tamika Tremaglio, Deloitte’s Managing Principal for Greater Washington.

“We’re thrilled to see the outpouring of support from United Way NCA, its participating organizations and Black churches across the region,” said Reverend Frank Tucker from First Baptist Church in DC. “Juneteenth is a time when we commemorate our freedom from slavery and a great time to uplift our community, celebrate our vitality and connect to resources that will keep us healthy and thriving.”

“To be part of a collaboration of local organizations, congregations and participating organizations that have come together to provide equity in health care access for the immediate needs of COVID-19 allows us to be ‘boots on the ground’ in under-resourced communities,” said Dr. Tollie Elliott, Chief Medical Officer, Mary’s Center. “These events are an opportunity for our Health Navigators to provide resources to community members who are interested in addressing other health concerns. It furthers our collective goal of creating equity in health care not just immediately, but for long-term health care needs.”

For a complete listing of COVID-19 testing, vaccination events and other resources, please visit www.UnitedWayNCA.org/access.

About United Way of the National Capital Area

United Way of the National Capital Area improves the health, education and economic opportunity of every person in the National Capital community. United Way NCA has been improving lives by creating measurable impact in the District of Columbia, Northern Virginia, and Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties for more than 45 years. In 2020, United Way NCA was among 384 organizations across the United States to receive a generous transformational investment from novelist and venture philanthropist, MacKenzie Scott. For more information about United Way of the National Capital Area, visit UnitedWayNCA.org.

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