California COVID-19 contact tracing to expand cultural competency with funding from Skoll Foundation

San Francisco – In order to ensure that those exposed to COVID-19 receive the help they need to quarantine and cooperate with public health guidance, UCSF’s Pandemic Initiative for Equity and Action (UPIEA) is adding a soft-skills component to the training California contact tracers receive: cultural humility.

With partners at UCLA , in consultation with California Department of Public Health, and with funding from the Skoll Foundation, UPIEA will award $75,000 grants to six community-based organizations across California, representing groups disproportionally affected by COVID-19. More Latinx and Black Californians have been affected by the disease because long-standing structural inequalities have left them more exposed.

“This funding from the Skoll Foundation will support us working with organizations who are really part of fabric of the affected communities in California to ensure that COVID-19 contact tracing earns community buy-in,” said Elizabeth Rojo, the program manager for the cultural humility training module development.

The organizations receiving the grants are: Disability Voices United (Manhattan Beach), Esperanza Community Housing Corporation (Los Angeles), Felton Institute – Family Service Agency of San Francisco, Healthy Community Forum of Greater Sacramento, The Fresno Center, Vision y Compromiso (Los Angeles). More than 50 community-based organizations applied for grants.

Contact tracers ask questions related to topics that can be sensitive, including health, work, living arrangements and food resources. Public health communications require a balance between providing clear instruction, asking productive questions and listening empathetically. If those exposed to the coronavirus are to quarantine successfully, contact tracers must successfully strike this balance. The balance is made even more important, and even more challenging to find, when racial, ethnic and economic diversity are at play.

Yet, the contact tracing workforce consists, by and large, of people with no previous experience in public health. New staff receive up to 22 hours of training and additional orientation and mentoring at the local level before they begin interacting with persons affected by COVID. The training program continues to adapt to ensure that all needs are being met based on community and staff feedback. With the program up and running, cultural humility became an area of important focus.

UPIEA, UCLA and the California Department of Public Health are now turning to organizations with close ties to diverse communities around the state to help refine the training for contact tracers to increase their skills in addressing these inequities.

UCSF Pandemic Initiative for Equity and Action
The UCSF Pandemic Initiative for Equity and Action (UPIEA) is a multidisciplinary group of health researchers and practitioners from across the UCSF community who are committed to addressing and redressing inequalities in health locally and globally through pandemic response.

UCLA Fielding School of Public Health
The UCLA Fielding School of Public Health (FSPH) COVID-19 pandemic response group is composed of public health faculty, researchers, and professionals experienced in local, national and international disaster relief, infectious disease epidemiology, emergency preparedness and community health. Through its research and community partnerships, FSPH aims to build health and equity among all communities through inclusive and culturally responsive initiatives.

California Department of Public Health
The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) works to protect the public’s health in the Golden State and helps shape positive health outcomes for individuals, families and communities and reduce health and mental health disparities experienced by vulnerable communities. The Department’s programs and services, implemented in collaboration with local health departments and state, federal and private partners, touch the lives of every Californian and visitor to the state 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Disability Voices United
Disability Voices United is a statewide California organization directed by and for people with disabilities and their family members, advocating for choice and control, meaningful inclusive outcomes, and systems that are equitable and accountable to disabled individuals. DVU focuses on the great disparities that people of color with disabilities face in the types of education, health care, and services they receive.

Esperanza Community Housing Corporation
Esperanza Community Housing Corporation is a social justice non-profit in South Central Los Angeles that achieves long-term, comprehensive community development. It develops and preserves affordable housing; elevates health equity and access to care; mobilizes for environmental justice; creates and protect local economic opportunities; expands engagement in arts and culture; and advocates for policies protecting human rights. In all of its actions, Esperanza builds hope with the community.

The Felton Institute
Founded in 1889, Felton Institute works with people and communities to improve and transform health and wellness, learning, and the impacts of injustice. Its programs meet the developmental needs of young children, transitional age youth, adults and seniors through programs that address prenatal needs, early childhood education, mental health, homelessness, and reentry to community from incarceration to name just a few. Felton serves communities in San Francisco, Alameda, San Mateo, Marin, and Monterey counties.

The Fresno Center
A non-profit founded in 1991, the Fresno Center’s mission is to assist individuals in becoming self-sufficient, self-fulfilled, and productive members of the community while fostering cultural preservation and promoting cross-cultural understanding. It has a long-standing history of providing traditional and culturally competent, linguistically appropriate services to the growing needs of low-income residents of Fresno County.

Sacramento Covered
Sacramento Covered is a community-based nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the overall health and well-being of the Sacramento region by connecting people to health coverage, primary and preventative care, and other health-related supports. Founded in 2013, it has served more than 20,000 residents annually.

Visión y Compromiso
Established in 2000, Visión y Compromiso (VyC) is a nationally respected organization dedicated to improving the health and well-being of underrepresented communities. It is the only organization in California providing comprehensive and ongoing leadership development, capacity building, advocacy training, and support to over 4,000 Promotores and Community Health Workers.