CHWI, COVID-19, and Community Health Equity - University of Houston
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The Community Health Workers Initiative and the Pandemic Response

Working together toward better community health is the core mission of all Community Health Workers and the COVID-19 pandemic has shown us all both how important and how difficult that work really is. Especially among communities that were used to feeling excluded from the medical system, the call for trusting each other and working together seemed half-hearted and one-sided. The Community Health Workers Initiative has always fought for better outcomes through community and understood that you can't take trust for granted in any community - it must be earned! 

We continued our ongoing work as advocates for the community through the Trust & Learn and worked to provide concrete resources for better surviving the pandemic. In the early spring of 2021, UH CHWs/Promotores de Salud and students supported some of the first community vaccine events in the Greater Houston Area and we continue to work hard informing people that the vaccines are one of the best methods to provide health equity going forward.

Even before the vaccines became widely available, it was clear that outcomes were deeply effected by the long-term effects of widespread disaffection from the health system - either because of lack of access or lack of engagement, many people had no history of working with the healthcare system to solve problems. 

In a Rockefeller Foundation funded collaboration with Bread of Life and other partners around the Houston area, we moved our focus to the long-term relationships that convince people that they should work with the healthcare system. Now expanding to partnerships with Community Family Centers, Vecino Clinics, and Kids Lives Matter, we help CHWs form a network of individually responsive health advocacy, which includes vaccination as part of the larger picture of good health.


Vaccines for All


No one gets a shot unless they trust it - and for many of us, that trust was broken even before the COVID-19 vaccination. Luckily, many of the national organizations leading vaccination efforts understand that we need new approaches to earning, sustaining, and deserving the public's trust in the healthcare system and they have funded the Community Health Worker Initiative (CHWI) to help get the word out about the vaccine, its benefits and the reasons everyone who is eligible should consider getting the vaccine (and the booster).


Students: Get Involved

Students: Get Involved

There are many ways for our students to get involved!

The wonderful folks at our student-run organization, Honors in Community Health (HICH), are the best place to start, but also think about our classes and the Data & Society minor.



Potential Collaborators: Contact us!


COVID-19 not only affected the health of people in Harris County but also their personal, social, and financial circumstances. Vulnerable and low-income populations were the most affected but also the ones with the least access to vaccines. Vaccination rates were lower among Black and Latinx populations with rates lower among communities that were under resourced such as Sharpstown/Gulfton, Pasadena, Third Ward, and Sunnyside. In partnership with the University of Houston Community Health Workers Initiative (UHCHW), Bread of Life (BOL) looked to ameliorate the effects of COVID-19 on communities of color and mobilized to create equitable access to vaccines. This was done through hiring community health workers that were of the communities of Sharpstown/Gulfton, Pasadena, Third Ward, and Sunnyside and were recent graduates of the UHCHWI Training Center.

CHWI and COVID-19 project partners

  • Bread of Life, Inc.

    Bread of Life, Inc.

    Through an ongoing partnership with Bread of Life, community health workers and UH undergraduates have been providing services and opportunities for vaccinations to folks throughout Harris County and Houston. Four different hubs have done individualized outreach in multiple languages, to refugee and immigrant populations as well as to financially insecure people from all walks of life, including folks experiencing homelessness and food insecurity.
  • Community Family Center

    With our partner, Community Family Centers (CFC), we join efforts in different COVID related projects:

    • "Blue Cross Blue Shield – Healthy Kids Healthy Families" is a program to assist families in the East End with children under 18 y.o. to provide care coordination services addressing the effects of COVID-19 in mental health.  
    • "Your Shot Texas" uses existing community health worker (CHW) certification classes and a current program of care coordination to increase vaccination rates in Houston's East End, a low-income Latinx community. Community health workers will expand engagement to address hesitation and host local events with Harris County Health Department vaccine suppliers to address access.
  • Vecino Health Center

    A group of CHWs trained by the Community Health Worker Initiative have helped community members within the 25 zip codes of Vecino's service area to provide navigation services, receive COVID-19 vaccines and to utilize the other health services at these clinics. They have been instrumental in bringing in new clients for the clinic and in helping community members understand why having a trusted health clinic can make a real difference in their lives.