Community outreach and restricting COVID-19 vaccine appointments by zip code helped NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital reach Black and Hispanic patients and reduce health disparities in COVID-19 vaccine uptake, according to a study by researchers at NewYork-Presbyterian and Columbia University Irving Medical Center. The study was published online June 22 in JAMA Open Network.
Between January 14, 2021 and May 14, 2021, NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital operated a large COVID-19 vaccination site at the Fort Washington Armory in Washington Heights, a racially and ethnically diverse neighborhood that was hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. Online self-scheduling was initially open to all New York State residents. On January 28, the Hospital digitally redesigned the scheduling system to restrict it to residents from local zip codes with high racial and ethnic minority populations.
In addition, direct outreach began on February 3 with a focus on local Spanish-speaking and underserved communities. This outreach was conducted through community-based organizations such as senior centers, faith-based organizations, and local primary care practices. Outreach components included social media campaigns, support from trusted community ambassadors, educational presentations to community groups, and enabling community-based organizations to directly schedule appointments on behalf of patients.
Before these two interventions, Black patients represented only 2 percent of the self-scheduled appointments for a first COVID-19 vaccine dose, and Hispanic patients represented 4 percent. Following the digital redesign that restricted the majority of scheduling to certain zip codes, those numbers increased to 10 percent and 31 percent, respectively.
Additionally, Black patients accounted for 12 percent of appointments made through community outreach, and Hispanic patients represented 58 percent of appointments.
“We saw a substantial increase in COVID-19 vaccine appointments at the Armory from Black and Hispanic patients once zip codes were restricted and direct outreach began,” said Dr. Daniela C. Diaz, associate medical director of New York-Presbyterian’s Herman “Denny” Farrell Jr. Community Health Center, assistant professor of medicine at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, and the lead author of the study. “These are populations that we knew were at higher risk for COVID-19 infection and hospitalization and had lower vaccination rates. We believe these steps could be replicated to help reduce health disparities in future public health campaigns.”
Ultimately, more than 100,000 people were vaccinated at the Armory, which was made possible by a collaboration with New York State, NewYork-Presbyterian, Weill Cornell Medicine, and Columbia University Irving Medical Center. In May 2021, NewYork-Presbyterian’s COVID-19 vaccination efforts shifted to community and physician-based sites throughout New York City and Westchester. Patients can visit NewYork-Presbyterian’s COVID-19 Vaccine Education Center to learn more and make an appointment.