Wake County Human Services Awarded $4 Million Federal Grant from Office of Minority Health

Funding will help continue efforts to improve COVID-19 safety and vaccination in underserved populations

Wake County Human Services has been awarded a $4 million grant aimed at helping communities hardest hit by the pandemic to access and understand COVID-19 information and take action to improve their health. Wake County received one of the highest dollar awards in the country from the Office of Minority Health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which works to eliminate health disparities among racial and ethnic minorities in both urban and rural areas.

“We are seeing firsthand the effects of COVID-19 on our most vulnerable populations,” said Wake County Board of Commissioners Chairman Matt Calabria. “This grant will significantly improve our ability to help our underserved communities, who have been disproportionately impacted during this pandemic.”

Wake County’s initiative is called HealthLit4Wake, which refers to “health literacy” – the degree to which health departments, healthcare providers and community organizations equitably enable residents to find, understand, and use information and services to inform their health-related decisions and actions.

Wake County Public Health has already been working with community partners in the region to increase vaccinations and COVID-19 safety, and these federal funds will help to broaden that work to further address health gaps. According to statistics from the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services, vaccinations are lagging in certain populations for our county. While Black or African Americans comprise 22% of Wake County’s population, they only make up 15% of total vaccinations. And while Wake County’s Hispanic population stands at 10%, Hispanic/Latinx community members only make up 7% of the total vaccinations.

“Wake County Human Services is pleased to receive this grant award and create a meaningful impact for our communities,” said Human Services Director Nannette M. Bowler. “This initiative will help continue the great work of our community engagement and vaccine equity strategy developed over the past year.”

The HealthLit4Wake Health Equity Coalition was launched earlier this month to increase confidence and build trust in local health service providers while establishing a stronger link between historically marginalized communities and government health agencies in Wake County.

Over the next two years, the coalition will work collaboratively with partners such as the NC Counts Coalition, El Centro Hispano, St. Augustine’s University, Raleigh Organizing Against Racism (ROAR), Southeast Raleigh Promise, LATIN-19 and others to dispel vaccine hesitancy, improve the information available about vaccines, elevate understanding around the need for continued masking and testing, and increase the percentage of people getting vaccinated in our most vulnerable populations.

The award, part of the Advancing Health Literacy to Enhance Equitable Community Responses to COVID-19 initiative, is one of 73 grants issued to local governments as part of a new, two-year initiative of the National Strategy for the COVID-19 Response and Pandemic Preparedness.

About Office of Minority Health
The Office of Minority Health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is dedicated to improving the health of racial and ethnic minority populations through the development of health policies and programs that will help eliminate health disparities. For more information about OMH, visit: minorityhealth.hhs.gov.

About Wake County Human Services
Wake County Human Services provides public health, social services and transportation services to the residents of Wake County, serving more than 200,000 people annually at locations across the county. A diverse staff of approximately 1,600 employees work in five divisions of child welfare, clinics, public health, social services, and administration and operations. For more information about Wake County Human Services, visit wakegov.com.

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