Thanks to a partnership between State of Connecticut, the City of Hartford Health Department and Swift, 200 more Hartford residents have been Covid-19 vaccinated. We were excited to get the call from Faith Palmer, Operations Manager for the City of Hartford’s Health and Human Services Department last week. She wanted to know if Swift could be a pop-up/walk-up Covid-19 vaccination site for Hartford residents. Of course we were on board!
You see, the digital divide is not the only divide affecting this community. And the event was designed to meet multiple needs. We saw it when remote schooling was unrolled in the community. Now, residents without devices or WiFi don’t have access to enroll through the VAMS System. At this clinic, all Hartford residents needed was identification. And, if they didn’t have a picture i.d., mail with your name and a Hartford address sufficed.
Mayor Bronin said the events were designed with that in mind. “A big part of our effort to get our community vaccinated is to remove every barrier, to make it as easy as possible,” Bronin said. The mayor also announced that the city is partnering with current Swift tenant, Harriott Home Health Services, to vaccine those who are homebound. Right now the partnership is vaccinating about 80 people a week, though the goal is to reach 100 vaccinations at week. City officials said vaccine hesitancy is still a concern. They urged those taking a "wait-and-see" approach not to wait, but to get vaccinated before the spread of variants can hinder the effort.
Another divide for Promise Zone Residents was bridged at the event as well, that oaccess to transportation. Putting a vaccination site right at the point of 5 Corners where people can walk right up to be vaccinated without an appointment had the desired effect.
“I live across the street from Swift. I looked out the window, saw the line and told my family to get ready, we’re going down there to get vaccinated,” 60-year old Rodney Morton said. His wife, Sharon said the clinic literally was a life saver. “I tried everything to get an appointment. I called the phone numbers on t.v. I went online…nothing. I am so glad that all we had to do was walk over here,” Sharon said. So, along with their 30-year old son Brandon and 18-year old son Isaiah, they headed right over.
Brandon said coming to get vaccinated was awesome. “If you can do something about staying healthy, living, why would you not do everything you can to make that happen, Brandon said. “There was no way I wasn’t coming anyway. We do everything together, Brandon added.
That is what increasing access is all about! And, that is what we have been about here at Swift since even before the first shovel broke ground on the project.
While Covid-19 provides a new lens on the realities of health disparities for much of the nation, those realities have been apparent to Community Solutions since before taking on the Swift Factory Project. And, access to quality health care and improving health care systems became central to our predevelopment work.
The partnership between Community Solutions and Hartford’s Health and Human Services Department that brought this Covid-19 vaccination site to the Swift Campus is nothing new. The vaccinations going into those residents' arms actually represent a continuation of years of partnerships—with the city, health providers, and other non-profits—that Community Solutions has leveraged with the goal of improving health outcomes in North Hartford.
Soon after completing a deep fact-finding dive into the neighborhood, including a 500 house door-to-door neighborhood survey, we learned the Connecticut-wide Health Equity Index rated the Northeast neighborhood among Hartford’s 17 neighborhoods as having the highest levels of obesity, heart disease, infant and neonatal mortality, preventable infections and communicable diseases. The 2012 Hartford Health Equity index ranked the neighborhood number one in highest levels of potential years of life lost. We had to respond.
For years, the community has been considered a food desert. So, we operated an Urban Farm in partnership with Hartford Food Systems and worked with others to try and bring a supermarket to the neighborhood. We found residents were using the Emergency Room to access health care. So, we enrolled a cohort into our community care coordination program and demonstrated a 57% decrease in Emergency Room utilization. We saw the negative impact the physical environment was having on the health of residents. So, we held a Health Impact Assessment and created a Neighborhood Sustainability Plan to inform healthy development practices.
So, here we are again, partnering to increase access to health care through this Covid-19 Vaccination Site. Because, as of March 22, state officials report significant racial disparities in Connecticut’s vaccine rollout. And, we are trying to do something about it.
Officials with the Connecticut Department of Public Health report White people are more than two times as likely as Black and Hispanic people to have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Health disparities are nothing new here. But, this level of awareness and the desire and will to do something about it is.
This partnership proves the impact physical development can have on the health of communities. That impact has always been a central consideration applying the social impact lens we have here at Swift. It considers that physical health, the social determinants of health and the physical environment are inextricably linked. It’s a great day when we get to put that into action! Come on out tomorrow! Get vaccinated!