The saying that “No one is safe until everyone is safe” has always been true. But for some, it’s taken a global pandemic to see that truth reflected in daily reality.
And while no one would argue with the fact that where you live shouldn’t determine whether you live, the reality is far from the ideal. The COVID-19 pandemic is the most recent, glaring example of deeply-rooted healthcare inequality. On a global scale, we see unequal access to vaccines. At a local level, we see health inequities that exist across provinces, states, counties, and even neighborhoods.
The leaders featured in episode two of Force Multiplier — Aurélia Nguyen, managing director of the COVAX facility at Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance; and Dr. Dominic Mack, director at Morehouse School of Medicine for National Care and the National COVID-19 Resiliency Network — are doing something about that disparity by leading the way on making healthcare equitable for everyone, both on a global and national level.
Through transformative partnerships, Nguyen and Dr. Mack are breaking down silos and blurring the traditional lines between professions, industries, and nations. Because of their steadfast dedication to health equity, our world is a little closer to the promise that where you live shouldn’t determine whether you live.
Episode two of the Force Multiplier podcast focuses on health equity and features Aurélia Nguyen from Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, and Dr. Dominic Mack from Morehouse School of Medicine.
Protecting Nearly Half the World’s Children Through Vaccination
Force Multiplier tells the stories of leaders who are proving that the only way to solve the world’s biggest problems is through dynamic, cross-sector partnerships that amplify impact in ways that can’t be achieved alone. There might not be an example that better exemplifies that than the collaborative COVAX partnership between Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance, the World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness (CEPI), and more than 190 governments around the world.
This multi-dimensional, global health partnership of public and private sector organizations brings together experts from vaccine development, procurement, and rollout. It is a shining example of innovative cross-sector partnerships united by one goal: saving lives. And each organization plays a critical role in helping the life-saving vaccines reach those who might not have access to receiving it otherwise.
“Each of the organizations has a little bit of a piece of that journey,” Nguyen explained. “CEPI has very much been focusing on the research and development side, making sure they were getting the best science in the fastest time. GAVI has really been looking at the financing, the procurement of the vaccine, contracts with the manufacturers, and then thinking about how to deploy in countries. The World Health Organization has all of the normative functions, if you like. Is the vaccine safe and effective? Are we going to need boosters? What do we think about variant vaccines? And then UNICEF is very much doing the rollout, the shipment, making sure that everything is in place so that ultimately the vaccines can get to the countries and then get through to the vaccination centers. The organizations coordinate together to bring a vaccine from lab to arm.”
On its own, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, has prevented upwards of 14 million future deaths by helping vaccinate more than 822 million children in the world’s poorest countries. Since it was established in 2000, it has supported nearly 500 vaccine introductions and campaigns. Its newest initiative — as the co-leader of COVAX — is undoubtedly its most ambitious, with a global initiative to ensure equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines across the world. As of June 2021, COVAX had delivered 77 million doses to 122 economies.
“I think the force multiplier is around how each of the organizations are able to bring what they do best, aimed towards a single objective around getting vaccinations out and around, ultimately saving lives,” Nguyen said. “And so it’s about using the private sector for the expertise they bring, the vaccine manufacturers for the R&D they do, the technical partners for all of the knowledge they have, the countries who want to save the lives of their citizens, and really bringing them together in a way that’s quite the opposite of a lowest common denominator. But actually being able to build more than each individual partner would be able to do and bringing it all together in one vision.”
Operating on a partnership model, Gavi’s work also aims to strengthen nation-building by protecting children so that they, their families, communities, and countries have more prosperous economies and social stability. In Gavi’s first 17 years, its work helped generate more than $150 billion in economic benefits in its supported countries.
As Nguyen explains on the Force Multiplier Podcast, the size and reach of Gavi’s COVAX collaboration is impressive — rivaled only by the Paris Climate Agreement. “Within COVAX, we brought together 193 governments,” she says. “That’s about 90% of the global population into a multilateral global effort. I think it’s the largest effort since the Paris Climate Agreement in terms of the number of countries that came together.”
With COVAX, Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance helped bring together 193 governments — representing about 90% of the global population — into a multilateral global effort.
Morehouse School of Medicine Dedicates $40 Million to Fighting COVID-19
Powered with technology shared by Salesforce.org among Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), the Morehouse School of Medicine (MSM) is on the frontlines of fighting COVID-19 in racial and ethnic minority, rural, and other communities disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.
Morehouse’s dedication to health equity is supported by a $40 million grant awarded to the college by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health in June 2020. For more than a year, MSM has been coordinating a strategic network of national, state, territorial, tribal, and local organizations to deliver COVID-19-related information to communities hardest hit by the pandemic.
This effort stems from research conducted by MSM that revealed how communities of color, already suffering from the highest burden of chronic diseases, were more impacted by COVID-19 because of inaccessibility to healthcare. Often, these communities have social determinants that need to be addressed before focusing on holistic healthcare, like regular doctor visits and vaccine shots.
The National COVID-19 Resiliency Network is a community health portal using data and analytics to pair target populations with the support and services they need.
“If you go into a community and you’re trying to improve the health of that community and the street lights are not on and there are dilapidated cars on the street, the people don’t have housing and they don’t have food,” Dr. Mack explained. “Maybe you need to give them a meal first, turn those lights back on before you can talk to them about improving their health.”
Along with the successful community-centric approach that Dr. Mack and his team are taking to holistic healthcare in highly-impacted communities, strong collaborative partnerships and integrated technology solutions were necessary next steps to make long-lasting change. “Once we received the award, the first step was to develop, strengthen, and secure partners. We have about 45 strategic partners, and another 200-plus community-based partners. It’s a team,” Dr. Mack said.
He continued, “Still, the issue comes just like with the data that the best technology, the latest technology gets to certain communities first. So we started to work with our technology partners to make sure that we developed a communication system where first, we get the message out to people, how to be safe, social distance, masking, vaccination, etc., — and getting it out in their language.”
The National COVID-19 Resiliency Network is the long-term solution born from the strategic partnerships and digital infrastructure that Dr. Mack and his team have built. The platform gathers critical resources and data on COVID-19 to connect families to culturally and linguistically appropriate information and services. To do this, MSM collaborated with KPMG to build a community health portal using Experience Cloud and Service Cloud for members of the National COVID-19 Resiliency Network (NCRN).
Today, the user-facing portal can be accessed from cell phones, tablets, or computers. A woman in Atlanta, for example, can type in her zip code and see the community resources around her. She’ll discover where she can go to get a vaccine or to get tested. She’ll access tools such as symptom checkers, a pharmacy locator, and if she needs help with finding food, she can connect with a community-based organization that can help.
These connections to real world resources are possible because of MSM’s partnerships with nonprofits, academic institutions, health centers, hospital systems, faith-based organizations, and government agencies that minority groups trust. NCRN administrators use a program management tool built on the Salesforce platform to track interactions, manage education, and disseminate accurate, timely, and culturally appropriate information, like available resources, responses to questions, and connections to services. Today, more than 50 community-based organizations across the nation are accessing information via the NCRN community health portal powered by Salesforce.
Although built to address COVID-19, Dr. Mack and his team at MSM also envision it being used for emergencies and to reach populations suffering from diabetes, hypertension, and other unique health disparities that impact certain underserved populations. Ultimately, NCRN could morph into a platform where these populations come for preventative primary care.
Leveling the playing field when it comes to health equity — both nationally for MSM and globally for Gavi — begins and ends with building authentic community trust through deeply-rooted partnerships. “So how do you develop a program where you’re fair and equitable and you’re addressing all the needs? The force multiplier is to include the community at the beginning stage in the development of these programs and give them the resources,” Dr. Mack said. “That’s the cornerstone of the program — to seek and rely on partners who really know these communities to disseminate a message within their own communities.”
Listen to episode two of the Force Multiplier podcast, and read about episode one.
About the Author
Cristina Jones, Chief Marketing and Engagement Officer at Salesforce.org