Vaccines transition into KC health programs

Heart to Heart International’s KC Programs department transitions vaccination efforts into long-lasting support for KC area community partners

Heart to Heart International’s work in COVID-19 vaccination is transitioning into long-term community health work to improve health access for people in the Kansas City metro.

For the past year, HHI has been providing COVID-19 vaccines to the KC community, focusing on communities and populations that are under-resourced, have high vaccine hesitancy or have high barriers to healthcare access.*

Since the beginning of its vaccination work, HHI has administered 10,231 vaccines (43% of which were first doses) at 161 events with the partnership of 95 different community groups and organizations.

“We vaccinated in some of the most unique places I’ve ever seen,” Stacy Tobin, KC Programs Manager, said. “We just go where we’re needed. I can remember one space that was literally a bathroom. It was a shower stall in a retirement community. We said, ok, this is where we are. We just go with it and as long as we’re getting shots in arms, it didn’t really matter.

Partnerships are key to the work HHI has been doing. By partnering with trusted community organizations, HHI’s KC Programs department has been able to build trust in communities that may traditionally have distrust of medical workers or outside organizations.

Partners are essential. They are the way we connect to the community. The community doesn’t know us when we come in, so having those partnerships are essential. We couldn’t do it without them,” Tobin said.

Spending so much time working alongside these community partners, HHI wanted to leverage that work into greater and long-lasting improvements in health access in the KC community. HHI established a dedicated Kansas City Programs department and hired community health workers and managers. As the vaccinations have started to wind down, the group has been implementing plans to translate the experience and relationships into work that will continue to benefit those in the Kansas City community.

“We’re really excited to take this new step to advancing our partnerships to a new level,” Tobin said. “We are really diving into the KC area and finding roots here and helping people close to home.”

One of the goals of the KC Programs department is to utilize HHI resource to amplify and augment the work of partners to achieve equitable healthcare in the KC area. HHI is able to support local partners with training, volunteers, and our fleet of medical vehicles.

Some of these local partners have begun reaching out to HHI when they have a need for medical or health access. Already in the works are plans for HHI’s KC Programs to help at a Cinco de Mayo community event with Guadalupe Centers, mobile mammography clinics with El Centro, and health fairs with Clay County.

“When I first started, I would show up and people would say ‘HHI, I’ve heard of you. What do you do again?’ Tobin said. “And that made me sad. I wanted people to say ‘HHI, I know exactly what you do.’ I want them to call me and say ‘HHI, we thought of you, we have these needs.’ That’s what I wanted to see, and we are definitely starting to see that. That’s how I know we’re making a difference.”

*These areas were determined using Area Deprivation Index (ADI). Area Deprivation Index measures neighborhoods by socioeconomic disadvantage and helps ensure the appropriate attention and resources are directed to those most in need.