January 27, 2021

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Academic, community and government partnerships can serve as a blueprint for addressing local public health crises like the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a publication today in the journal Population Health Management.

Joshua J Joseph MDThe article details a community care kit distribution initiative in the first few months of the COVID-19 pandemic by The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, The African American Male Wellness Agency, Partners Achieving Community Transformation, Columbus Public Health, Ohio Department of Health Office of Health Equity, Franklin County Public Health, Columbus Police Department, Columbus City Schools, and many more. These organizations partnered to dispense face masks, soap, hand sanitizer, dental hygiene items and educational materials to more than 7,500 people who reside in areas disproportionally impacted by coronavirus.

“Early in the pandemic, evidence found face masks are an effective method to prevent the spread of COVID-19,” said Dr. Joshua Joseph, lead author, endocrinologist at the Ohio State Wexner Medical Center and assistant professor at The Ohio State University College of Medicine. “This knowledge combined with the novel approach of academic, community and government partnership allowed us to mobilize to raise awareness of the importance of wearing face masks and provide valuable resources in at-risk communities.”

Several key steps were involved in this targeted approach: identifying the most vulnerable communities, pinpointing distribution locations within those communities, intentional notifications of distribution dates and locations, procurement of supplies by leveraging key partnerships, on-site distribution using volunteers and using interpreter services when needed.

Care-Kit-Distribution-MayorDuring a week-long distribution at five locations between May 11 – 15, 2020, 46,000 face masks, 10,000 soaps, 18,000 hand sanitizers and 12,000 dental hygiene items were distributed. There were 4,726 recipients of the community care kits over the 5-day campaign and approximately 2,800 other recipients who received kits through additional donations to our community partners. Among those who participated, 58% of recipients indicated that they did not have access to a face mask prior to the distribution event.

“COVID-19 has put the spotlight on the health disparities that exist in our community,” said Columbus Public Health Commissioner Dr. Mysheika Roberts. “Columbus Public Health is proud to work with the Ohio State Wexner Medical Center and others to provide community care kits to vulnerable communities who have been disproportionally impacted by COVID-19 to help reduce the spread and protect their health.”

Residents in the communities where the care kits were distributed have disproportionally higher rates of chronic diseases such as hypertension, obesity and diabetes, which are associated with increased COVID-19 hospitalizations. Social determinants of health such as multigenerational housing and low wage essential employment also increase risk of COVID-19 infection among vulnerable populations, as they may make it difficult to physically distance effectively.

“Partnerships are a vital way Franklin County Public Health works to meet its mission to prevent disease, promote healthy living and protect against public health threats,” said Franklin County Public Health Commissioner Joe Mazzola. “We are so grateful for this opportunity which highlights the success that can occur, particularly to address equity, when those strong partnerships are formed.”

Care-KitsThe African American Male Wellness Agency Founder John Gregory said, “By partnering with the Ohio State Wexner Medical Center, it gave us the necessary tools to reach the urban communities of Columbus. As COVID-19 has highly impacted the African American community, we knew it was important for us to be the distributors who reached those communities.”

Other article contributors include Autumn Glover, Dr. J. Nwando Olayiwola, Dr. Mark Rastetter, Johnnie Allen, Kim Knight, Bjorn Kluwe and Dr. Darrell Gray.


Media Contact: Serena Smith, Wexner Medical Center Media Relations, Serena.Smith@osumc.edu