Episode 3: REACHing for Vaccine Equity Food Hubs & Vaccine Clinics – Presbyterian Community Health

Listen on Apple PodcastsListen on SpotifyGet the RSS Feed


Building trust is critical to overcoming health inequities in any community. In the “Food Hubs & Vaccine Clinics” episode of REACHing for Vaccine Equity, learn from this New Mexico team addressing vaccine confidence head-on by building trust in the community. Serena Ortiz, CCHW, and Sophie Tate, MPH, from Presbyterian Community Health in Albuquerque share their successes and challenges of co-launching COVID-19 and flu vaccine clinics at a local food hub providing fresh food. Aiming to reach American Indian, African American, and Hispanic/Latino communities, this project focused on using trusted local sites to build vaccine equity.

In this episode hosted by Lisa Jacques-Carroll, AIM iREACH Project Public Health Consultant:

  • Learn about the free Food and Vaccine Hub in the heart of the International District of Albuquerque. Presbyterian Community Health REACH program staff Serena and Sophie share the challenges of health inequities and how they have established trust with the community.
  • Learn more about the “Trusted Messenger Model,” which has been crucial in helping individuals struggling with vaccine confidence, giving them the boost needed to overcome their concerns.
  • Hear how they worked with partners, trusted messengers, and the community to promote and provide access to free fresh food and COVID-19 and flu vaccinations.

Speaker Bio: Serena Ortiz, CCHW

Serena Ortiz, CCHW, joined Presbyterian Community Health in 2021 as a Community Health Worker (CHW), supporting patients with health-related social needs via screening and community resource navigation. In 2022, she transitioned into the role of Project Coordinator for Vaccine Equity and Community Engagement, where she provides program support for a variety of COVID-19 and flu vaccine equity initiatives, including coordinating community-based clinic events, liaising with community and program partners, and managing internal and external communications to support program activities like training, education, and outreach.

Before joining Presbyterian, Serena earned a Bachelor of Public Health degree from New Mexico State University. She then transitioned into working for New Mexico’s Public Health Institute (Center for Health Innovation), assisting with youth substance use prevention programs and the NM community data collaborative.

As a born-and-raised New Mexican, Serena has a passion for the community that fostered her growth and development into the person she is today. With her lived experience of poverty, discrimination, and healthcare access, she is committed to advocating for health equity and social justice.

Speaker Bio: Sophie Tate, MPH

Sophie Tate, MPH, has always been interested in cooking, eating, and discussing food. From her Bachelor in Economics degree from Skidmore College to her dual Master of Public Health and Environmental Health degrees from the University of Sheffield and EHESP Paris, she has incorporated food system access, food sovereignty, and food justice into all aspects of her coursework.

She is especially interested in how built environments affect food choices and access and how these factors influence community health. At Presbyterian Community Health, Sophie coordinates the new produce prescription program called the “Food Farmacy.” She is one of the original team members who worked on creating the “Food Hub” at Whittier Elementary and manages the Community Garden at the resource center on the hospital campus. She is dedicated to expanding education and access to fresh produce through community organizing.

Born in China, raised in Kansas, and now thoroughly enchanted with New Mexico, Sophie enjoys exploring the outdoors, working on crossword puzzles, cooking, eating, and discussing food.


Dr. Yabo Beysolow 00:00

Welcome to Reaching for Vaccine Equity. We are your hosts. My name is Dr. Yabo Beysolow.

Lisa Jacques-Carroll 00:09

And I’m Lisa Jacques-Carroll. In this limited series podcast hosted by the iReach team at the nonprofit Association of Immunization Managers, learn how individuals living with chronic health conditions can thrive with the preventative power of getting vaccinated and adopting healthy behaviors, including nutrition, exercise, and smoking cessation.

Dr. Yabo Beysolow 00:33

Meet REACH community leaders who have success stories to share, the challenges they have met, and the health inequities they’re working to overcome in the diverse communities they serve. We’re glad you’re here.

Lisa Jacques-Carroll 00:47

Hello, I’m your host, Lisa Jacques-Carroll. In this episode, we will explore how providing vaccination access at trusted local sites can help at-risk community members thrive. I want to welcome our guests, Serena Ortiz and Sophie Tate from Presbyterian Health Services based in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I’m excited for you both to share all of the great work you’ve been doing to promote good nutrition, and flu and COVID-19 vaccination in your community. Serena and Sophie, I’m so glad to have you on the show. Welcome.

Sophie Tate 01:23

Thank you. Thanks so much. We’re happy to be here.

Lisa Jacques-Carroll 01:26

Serena, can you please tell our listeners a little bit about your organization and how you work to impact the lives of people in your community?

Serena Ortiz 01:36

Yeah, absolutely. So Presbyterian is a locally owned not-for-profit healthcare system in New Mexico of nine hospitals, a statewide health plan, and a growing multi-specialty medical group. We serve about 875,000 patients and members so we have many different programs supporting our purpose of improving the health of the communities we serve and our work towards health equity.

So, some of our programs include food access, vaccine equity, community health workers focused on the social determinants of health, peer support specialists, substance use prevention, healthy eating, active living, chronic disease self-management, the whole nine yards. And today in particular, we’re gonna be talking about a food hub/food pantry vaccine model that we’ve had in collaboration with one of our wonderful elementary schools in the international district, which Sophie will touch on a little later.

And we also have, of course, a wonderful team behind us that’s focused on our community health assessment, planning, and implementation. They are certainly the backbone of all the work that we get to do and help us to learn more about our people, how to better serve them, and what our outcomes look like. So, it’s been an absolute joy to be part of this thriving, growing, and impactful department.

Lisa Jacques-Carroll 02:54

Thank you so much for that great overview. Sophie, please tell us a little bit about the community that we’re highlighting today.

Sophie Tate 03:02

Yeah, so the families we work with in the food hub are residents of part of Albuquerque called the International District, and it’s situated in the eastern part of our city along the historic Route 66, and the neighborhood while, booming sort of back in that heyday, has seen food, housing, and health resources leave as development has continued more in the north and western parts of Albuquerque. The residents of the international district are not only New Mexican, but they come from all over the world, with foreign-born individuals making up 21% of the roughly four square mile neighborhood and 74% of the residents are people of color, and the neighborhood encompasses more languages and cultural groups than any other place in New Mexico.

Lisa Jacques-Carroll 03:48

Thank you so much. That sounds like a really interesting community. So what are some of the unique cultural aspects of the international district that affect your work? Let’s start with Sophie.

Sophie Tate 03:58

It is already a minority-majority area comprised, as I said, of mostly of people of color. It is an area with folks who’ve historically been marginalized and continue to face health disparities and inequity.

Serena Ortiz 04:11

Yeah. And to add to that, there’s just a very notable and distinct challenge in accessing these communities because they have a, like Sophie said, a lot of historical, you know, marginalization happening and continue to face those disparities and inequities. So it’s really, really important in this community, in particular, to maintain cultural humility and sensitivity when, when coming in as a big organization and trying to work at the individual level.

Lisa Jacques-Carroll 04:42

Great. Thank you. What are the biggest challenges in your community in helping diverse individuals manage issues related to healthcare access?

Serena Ortiz 04:52

Yeah, and I can take that first. So firstly, I think it’s very important to define who the community is that we are seeing. So we primarily work with Wittier families and the neighborhood that has access to the food hub. So we think it’s important to include that information to remind people that we’re not necessarily revolutionizing the International District by any means but that we are making a substantial difference in the neighborhood that we serve with a model that’s replicable. So with that being said, we’ve had many different families come to us with their concerns and their challenges. And I’ll be speaking from those interactions, the individual interactions, and one of the biggest and most common challenges that has been brought to our attention is the lack of trust in many different capacities, whether that be trusting a healthcare provider or trusting a large organization like Presbyterian to meet their needs. People are very skeptical about organizations checking boxes rather than having an intention of helping to meet those needs. So it does present a challenge for us to rethink and brainstorm ways to make sure that they know they are being heard. And for us to take those experiences and move forward in establishing more trust and confidence with them. Another big common challenge that’s brought to us is people come with negative healthcare experiences, whether that be personal or a loved one with that kind of experience.

So, this no longer just becomes a conversation about vaccine confidence, but it’s about having confidence in the healthcare system in general and believing that there are people in the system that care about you and your health, and this is where it’s important, and the idea of trusted messengers comes in, right, where we have individuals meeting with individual community members and fostering a relationship that allows them to heal from many of the things that they experienced within a healthcare system they felt was not working in the best interest of them. So, sometimes this negative healthcare experience is discrimination and fear and that they won’t get the care they need because they’re a person of color. So, you know, that is a very interesting challenge for us, especially not, you know, living in that community and seeing where these things happen. So the fact we’re able to tap into that and talk to someone in, at an individual level, about the things they’re experiencing helps us on a broader scale for some of the community members that might have the same experience. The last thing that I wanted to touch on is that there is a very obvious income and wealth gap with the people that come in that are hesitant about even asking about vaccination.

An example that has happened a lot is people will come into the food hub and come into the vaccination hub and will say immediately, without even us offering that it’s a free vaccination, they’ll ask, you know, is insurance required because I don’t have insurance? That’s the number one question and we always make sure to explain that vaccines are completely free, that no ID or insurance is required. And for some, that being the first question. The next question is the other barriers of, oh, I haven’t been vaccinated before. I heard it makes you really sick, and then it’s addressing those things, but we start the conversation and address those concerns. Though, we do wish that money and the worry of money was never there to begin with, right?  It really puts things into perspective for us, and again, helps us to move forward in how do we improve our interactions and the confidence in vaccines from those experiences.

Lisa Jacques-Carroll 08:34

Excellent. Thank you for sharing all those challenges. Sophie, what are some of the health inequities that face the international district community?

Sophie Tate 08:44

Yeah, so like Serena said, we struggle with the confidence of the residents in larger organizations and also the, just like the access to quality healthcare, I think quality being the main important word there. We’ve seen a lot of community resources and other, like larger organizations, like Serena said, coming in and trying you know to help sort of these downstream models and less with the sort of primary prevention. And so that quality healthcare really does start with the, we think the trusted messenger model, making sure that the residents feel comfortable speaking with us, educating them on why we’re there in the first place. I think making sure that, that we’re there, not just to provide a service, you know, you can give out all the fresh produce you want, but if they don’t feel comfortable approaching or they think it might cost money or then once they get the produce or the vaccines, they don’t understand how to use them. It’s a very multifaceted challenge.

Lisa Jacques-Carroll 09:45

Great. Thank you so much, Serena. Can you tell us a little bit more about how the vaccine and food hub works and your goals for that project, please?

Serena Ortiz 09:55

As a larger scale, vaccination clinics kind of began to phase out due to lower patient numbers, we were faced with a lot of interesting challenges on how we were gonna make this food hub/vaccine clinic work. We…people had to be vaccinated, right? And wanted to do so. And we had to be very strategic and more creative about how and where we were going to have these sites.

So the questions were how would we reach people who remained hesitant and who perhaps hadn’t been given the opportunity to do so with ease? So we looked a lot more closely at this idea of a trusted site with the question where are people, specifically our priority populations going otherwise, and where can we include a vaccine clinic as an offering to support, you know, the health and wellness in gathering places that are drawing people for different reasons?

Right? So, how we kind of place that together is that we had a very strong partnership with the community-based organization, specifically in the ID, that would welcome us to their kind of regular gatherings at the event and the International District being one of those. And we wanted to have a vaccine clinic with that standing food hub schedule to allow us to gain trust in that community.

So they knew that we would be there repeatedly and that they could count on us for providing free vaccinations for anyone who wished to receive them at the time they were comfortable receiving them. So that’s kind of how it started. And so now we still do provide regular vaccinations, specifically now for COVID, since flu season has now kind of, it’s at the tail end.

We are providing COVID-19 vaccinations for any attendees of the food hub. And sometimes, people attending the food hub are regulars, and sometimes we have new families coming into the food hub because of the outreach that Wittier and that those wonderful organizations do. Um, for us, for example, yesterday we just did door-to-door handing out flyers in the neighborhood so that, you know, we can have more, more people having access to these services and you know, highlighting that there’s gonna be a special event, which that special event being vaccination and that’s what we’ve tried to maintain as far as how this has all been working.

Sophie Tate 12:17

I think too, like Serena was saying, we did this, this door-knocking yesterday where we handed out flyers, letting everyone know there’s a special event and just letting them know that we will be there. You know, like we’re looking forward to seeing them so that when they come, it’s not intimidating hopefully at all; that it’s just like, you know, seeing friends from the community.

Lisa Jacques-Carroll 12:34

Thank you so much for sharing about those outreach activities. It sounds like you’re really doing a great job of getting out into your community and building that trust so that’s, that’s awesome. So, how did this collaboration first get started in the International District, and how do you build relationships and foster those partnerships in your community for this project? Let’s start with Sophie.

Sophie Tate 12:58

The partnership between Presbyterian and the community leaders in the International District has been ongoing since the beginning of community health, at least because our, our leaders at Pres have a strong background in public health, our community health department has always worked with the International District community leaders together on grants and on projects. We know we have these really great partnerships. Individuals in the community who might be community organizers or pathway navigators, or people from just all, all over, who are constantly working within their community and because we – Pres – coming as an outsider organization, don’t have that trust, it’s been really important for us to work and continue those relationships with both the community leaders and also the community. Just making sure that we are available to listen to what they need and hopefully be able to help provide anything that we can. And so this specific partnership has grown outta at least 2015, uh, Healthy Year Grant, working within the International District to promote healthy eating and active living.

Lisa Jacques-Carroll 14:12

Excellent. Thank you. Serena, did you have anything to add?

Serena Ortiz 14:15

Yeah, so Sophie did a really great job on, on kind of pinpointing exactly where this collaboration started. We have just been very grateful to continue this, of course, because this was before our time, but our Partners for Vaccine Equity Program was very, very fortunate to build on the vaccination efforts based on many years, like we said, of existing partnership between community health and you know, partners in the International District.

We did not take anything for granted when we were given that opportunity and as a newer community health program, you know, vaccine equity, a lot of our time in the beginning was dedicated to creating relationships, not just in the International District, but just in general and getting to know our partners and how we can build and leverage those partnerships.

So I think not a lot of people talk about this portion, but relationships between partners are so important and the quality of care that we’re able to provide to our communities. So of, like I said, we’re very grateful to continue in this work and to continue to see how these partnerships can create even more striving, you know, communities and increase that vaccine confidence.

Lisa Jacques-Carroll 15:25

Excellent. Thank you so much. What was one challenge that you overcame through the vaccine and food hub? Let’s start with Sophie.

Sophie Tate 15:34

Yeah, so we’ve been able to operate the food hub this year out of one of the portable buildings on the property of an Albuquerque public school, elementary school campus. But we’re looking at other, uh, permanent locations, so we’re…others who are looking to implement this model might run into issues like this with volunteers and outside staff, working with children in a school setting, setting up supply chains for fresh produce and non-perishables. However, I think it’s a testament to the fact that though it’s challenging, creating a sustainable food hub is possible, and it does strengthen the trust between community members and partners.

I think the biggest success is just, yeah, being able to do this consistently every other week, even though our grant is over because we’ve worked with the community throughout the whole process, we now have been able to actually hire some of the community members to staff the food hub. Yeah, that’s been really cool.

Lisa Jacques-Carroll 16:31

Thank you. I love hearing about the creative approaches that you all are using to sustain your work.

Sophie Tate 16:35

One of the, um, community leaders that we definitely wanted to, um, lift up and highlight and bring into this podcast and conversation, um, and who is constantly, um, I think lifted up, highlighted within her, her community, um, is Reyna Luz.

Um, she was a community leader at Whittier, um, and within the International District. So, so happy to have known her. Um, and she really brought this, this food hub, into fruition. Um, the surprising thing I would say about working with these leaders in the community is their reach and their passion for their work. It seems like so many of the leaders within this community know each other from some project or another. Since so many social determinants of health are interconnected and their personal interest in each individual, each kid, each family is really genuine. We’ve seen that these partners, and now friends, I would say having met with them at the food hub every other week for the past year, have a seemingly boundless energy to do this work. Whether it’s pathway navigation, registering folks to vote, increasing food access, promoting vaccine equity. They’re just really excited to be in their community to to continue getting their community members involved in, in projects like this. So I guess that’s not surprising and you know, surprising bad, but surprising good.

Lisa Jacques-Carroll 18:01

That’s excellent. It’s great to hear that you found those passionate community leaders to support this project that, that’s really great. Serena, can you tell us about the outcome of this project?

Serena Ortiz 18:14

Yeah. Yeah. So as I’ve mentioned, this is an ongoing project, so we’ve definitely seen some outcomes so far, but are hoping to, you know, see even more with the larger events that we’re planning, especially now that we have new grants and there’s new stuff happening with Whittier and other, you know, bigger organizations than the International District.

But one thing that we wanted to highlight as a huge outcome of this project is that the average amount of people being vaccinated at each event, and the average percentage was about 10% for every event, and the 10% is not reflecting the regular attendees of the food hub. So, if we look at the overall families that might be returning versus families that are new to the food hub, that is probably a very large percentage of people that are being vaccinated at the food hub. We would be very interested to review the data just from the Whittier neighborhood to see the percentage of vaccine uptake compared to other neighborhoods because we have seen so many families get vaccinated through this opportunity.

So it’s been really, really awesome and encouraging to look back on that and to draw upon that goal remaining that we want to vaccinate as many people that we can and that we can reach that are going to the food hub. So I, I think that that is the biggest, you know, most awesome outcome of the situation is that we are seeing 10% vaccination is a lot for such a small community. So Sophie and I were just surprised to read the numbers and realize that we had made such a big impact.

Lisa Jacques-Carroll 19:58

Yeah, I was gonna say, that’s really exciting to to hear the impact that you’re having on vaccine uptake in that community, so congratulations.

Serena Ortiz 20:06

Yeah, thank you.

Lisa Jacques-Carroll 20:09

I’d like for you both to share a shining moment for this project and what you’ll remember most. Sophie, would you like to start?

Sophie Tate 20:18

Sure. So I guess we didn’t say this earlier, but my role in the food hub is more the food side, and Serena’s is more with the vaccine side. And that’s probably been apparent as we’ve been talking, but, so sort of my shining moment from this has been watching the growth. So in April, we had our soft launch, and we had all of our super excited food hub committee staff at the food hub in April at this open house at Whittier. And that was the first time I was involved in the community and getting to see how, how to interact, how to be in this space, recruiting families took over and check out our food hub, and we got maybe. Twenty people to come over from this open house and then to the end of the year. Towards the end of the year, in October, we had a pumpkin patch event.

There were turkeys at Thanksgiving. There were like posole kits in December. And seeing the growth of the food hub’s popularity in the community, the uptake, and just seeing those repeat families and also seeing them bring in other community members who might not live as close to Whittier has been really cool.] Um, yesterday, just yesterday, when we were door-knocking there, we were handing out a flyer to this family who didn’t have any children who went to Whittier, and they were wondering if they could come. And it’s just been really cool to. Get involved and hopefully become one of these trusted partners in, in the International District.

Lisa Jacques-Carroll 21:46

Excellent. It must be really rewarding to see the participation increase like that just in the short span of time. So you all, you’re definitely doing something right there, so congratulations on that as well. How about you, Serena?

Serena Ortiz 22:01

Yeah, I think when Sophie and I were sitting down and having a conversation about today, we were just really amazed by the numbers and the outcomes.  And we also had conversations about the families that we had great relationships with and just, you know, talking about our interactions with them. And I think finally taking a moment to step back and review and reflect on the impact has been the shining moment for me in this entire project because it’s not very often that we, we go over these things together and talk about what has actually been done.

It’s more we’re at on the ground doing the work and not sitting down. You know, prepping for being here today really gave us the opportunity to slow down and really think about how what we are doing is making an impact and how we can build upon that. So, you know, like Sophie said, she’s very involved in the food hub portion. I’m very involved in the vaccines, but it’s very rare that we get to have this kind of cross and and conversation about how, what are we both seeing? What’s different? What’s the same, you know? So that was really helpful. And also for us planning on what the future of this project is going to be too. So I think that was the biggest highlight for me.

Lisa Jacques-Carroll 23:22

Great. Thank you for sharing. Thinking about the more significant needs in your community, Serena, can you share some examples of vaccine equity initiatives that have worked in the community? And feel free to bring shine to your partners.

Serena Ortiz 22:38

Well, we have had so many wonderful opportunities for these creative collaborations with our community-based partners, so I’ll just be highlighting a couple of those.

The biggest one that we actually just completed, too, is we do have listening sessions with our community members that have lived experience to allow us to gain more understanding about misinformation, disinformation, and some of the root causes of vaccine hesitancy in our communities. So we’ve been working closely with the University of New Mexico’s Prevention Resource Center, and we’ve coordinated about 16 listening sessions since the summer of 2021, and they have been hosted by trusted community organizations where people feel comfortable gathering. So our listening session facilitators are people from and of this community, and they are trained by UNM to effectively support the flow of that conversation. So we’ve learned so, so many important lessons from that and one of those being an example here.

We love hearing more and more about how we can create some culturally responsive and linguistically appropriate messaging. An example is that we have many Spanish-speaking workers who rely a lot on traditional music radio stations for their news. They listen to radio stations while they’re at a job site. And, um, this means that if they’re listening to those specific stations, we also must provide PSAs and announcements for free clinics in Spanish on those stations that we’ve identified they’re listening to. And not necessarily through like a social media campaign because it wouldn’t reach them in that way.

Right? So it’s just all of these different things just help us to pivot our focus on how we’re engaging certain populations in New Mexico. We’ve also been engaged with church leaders and faith leaders who were promoting positive vaccination messages from their pulpit, and they’ve allowed us to come into their community and organize pop-up clinics at their church, which is a huge deal knowing that you know, most churches are a sacred place. They don’t just allow anyone to be there, especially from a large organization that’s providing something that historically may not be allowed or may not be something normally talked about. So we provided some marketing support with input from our church leaders kind of at every step of the way, to ensure that our messaging aligns with their vision and values.

And we’ve had a lot of success there and have great partnerships there. And then the last thing I wanted to talk about is we do have a large flea market here in Bernillo County. It’s the largest flea market in New Mexico that’s held every weekend at the fairgrounds. And this attracts a really diverse audience and clientele of people. The management was very interested in developing more health outreach programs at the flea market, and so they designated an area for us to provide our direct service popup tents, and we’ve invited other community partners to be there for some other educational outreach, and that was twice monthly, from June through November of last year, providing both flu and COVID vaccinations. So, you know, we’ve had all of these amazing, huge partnerships happening. We have Gathering of Nations, which is, you know, the largest gathering of native indigenous populations here in New Mexico that we’ve been invited to be a part of as well. These are huge, huge, and great big ways that we can, you know, continue to make an impact and provide vaccinations for populations that are in our priority for New Mexico. So that was a lot, but lots of good stuff happening.

Lisa Jacques-Carroll 27:25

Excellent. I was gonna say thank you for sharing all those creative initiatives that you’re using to get your community vaccinated. That’s impressive. So thank you. Can you each share one of your favorite moments when you feel you’ve connected with someone to make a difference in your community? And let’s start with Sophie.

Sophie Tate 27:46

Sure. So I think in community health and at Presbyterian, we are helping or like, yeah, helping others realize that food is medicine. And I think that. One of my favorite intersections between food access and vaccine equity had has been at the food hub in this, showing this kid that food is medicine and vaccines are also medicine, which obviously, but it’s just helping him like. Not be so afraid of, of getting this vaccine. So one of our regular families that comes to the food hub every week, they pick up their kids from school, and they stock up on our free fresh produce, grown by the local farmers in the International District and then also pantry staples.

We also have cooked food and then that this, this family would enjoy while they watch their kids play on the playground outside. And the parents were excited to get the vaccine, but one of their kids was nervous because of needles and kids are nervous about that, but the clinic staff talked through the process and importance of vaccines week after week and compared the vaccine to the fresh produce saying that this shot would help his body fight off infections, just like the fresh fruits and veggies from the food hub would help him, you know, grow big and strong. And so he eventually got his shot and came back to the food hub with a little Bandaid on his arm and asked if he could have another like piece of fresh fruit. And just seeing that, that connection between vaccines and fresh food being available at the same time at the same site, week after week was really cool.

Serena Ortiz 29:20

A family that I think about a lot and has really informed my work and just stuck with me was a family that I met who mom was Spanish-speaking only and dad spoke both English and Spanish, and the first time they came into the vaccine hub, were immediately kind of hesitant about getting the vaccine when I offered, but Dad eventually just got vaccinated right away with no hesitation after giving him some information.

But then mom was speaking to me in Spanish. I understand Spanish…don’t speak it very well, and she was saying that she didn’t understand why people got flu vaccines. If they’re just gonna get sick from getting, you know, a vaccine and that she knew her husband was gonna be sick and that she was gonna have to take care of him and that she only got COVID, the COVID vaccine because it was required at her workplace. And you know, after reading the energy of that and figuring out what my approach was gonna be for speaking with her, I had to understand that in the moment, the person she likely trusted the most was not me. Or anyone else in the room as a professional, right? But that she was gonna trust her husband the most.

And so with all of that, I just started throwing questions at her husband. I’m like, why did you decide to get vaccinated? What about your children? Are they vaccinated? Do you have kids? You know, just throwing these questions that way. So, That mom could hear exactly why he decided to get vaccinated, and maybe that would kind of inform her decision or impact her a little more than if I was giving her just the facts, right, of why it’s important to get vaccinated.

So over the next couple of weeks, they started coming in each time saying hi to me. I got to meet their kids and we just were fostering this really awesome relationship, even though each time she came in just to say hi, she wasn’t getting vaccinated. The kiddos eventually got vaccinated. I was starting to give her more and more information and answering any questions she had about vaccination over time. So, you know, it was no longer just a vaccine conversation, right? Life updates and personal, you know, personal details about their lives and the kids and asking the kids how were, how was school, you know? So one day just as normal, they came in to come say hi, because you know, we had built this relationship.

They wanted to just come check in. And mom came in, didn’t say hi to me, which I thought was very strange, and she just plops herself down on the chair in front of me and starts filling out a consent form for the flu vaccination. And I didn’t want to approach it with why did you change your mind? I just kindly, you know, continued our conversation of like, well, how are you today? And just kind of talked through things. And while she was getting vaccinated, still having a conversation, like I’m pretty sure she didn’t know when the needle actually went into her arm because we were so distracted, right? She comes to me after we’ve had this conversation and she just starts thanking me for everything that I’ve done for her and for her family.

And it was just the most endearing conversation I’ve had with, with a family before, and it just made me think that. How this transition of coming in as this like scary, huge healthcare organization to now being weaved into the life of this family and being so involved and also being able to bridge that gap and to give her the information that she needed was very encouraging for me. And I still think I’m gonna be able to see them at the food hub now that we’re having a food hub today in the afternoon. I might be able to see that family again and engage with them, and that was very tangible evidence and experience for me of why and how trusted messengers work. So yeah, just wanted to share that one. It was, it was a great interaction.

Lisa Jacques-Carroll 33:06

What an awesome success story. Thank you, Serena. Well done. Moving into thinking about the future and sustaining the great work that you’ve done during the pandemic, Serena, how is your organization planning to sustain this work in, in your community?

Serena Ortiz 33:24

We recently finished conducting another round of listening sessions with different demographics. Now that you know, long COVID is part of the conversation now, we wanted to learn more about what people knew about long COVID and how these communities have changed their minds over the two years of vaccination, right? Who has been vaccinated, who hasn’t been vaccinated. So we do just really understand the importance of having that firsthand narrative of people who are vaccine or those surrounded by vaccine-hesitant people. So that is one big one that we’re continuing to build upon and you know, create outreach dependent on the outcomes of those listening sessions. We also continue to be in regular communication with our other partners.

For example, with Whittier, we are planning an event around Earth Day, So now we’re incorporating that environmental health aspect along with the physical. Expect and food access. And I think that’s gonna be really, really interesting to see how that plays out as far as having those three very different, you know, things coming together. So that’s happening. We also have partnerships with other organizations in the international district that aren’t necessarily vaccine clinics, but vaccine education.

So now we’re coming in and starting to train trusted messengers of the community so that we can have more reach in that way. But I think the critical piece to sustaining all the work that we do is really leaning on our partners and other community members to provide all the input on their needs. Cause we’re not gonna know that on our own, right? So we have to really ask the right questions and we listen wholeheartedly and really do our best to. Meet those needs within the parameters of the grant that we have. So yeah, I just think that that is the most important part of everything that we’re doing right now, is that we can’t do any of the work we do without our partnership.

Lisa Jacques-Carroll 35:16

Thank you so much for sharing. It sounds like you have lots of fun activities to look forward to in the office.

Serena Ortiz 35:21

Yes. We’re excited.

Lisa Jacques-Carroll 35:25

So this is our inspiration section of the podcast. What is one thing that keeps you returning to this work daily? Sophie?

Sophie Tate 35:35

So I think just sort of that story I shared earlier about watching this kid hype himself up to get this vaccine and then watching him see that connection between vaccines, medicine, food is medicine has been really inspiring and just getting to work with the community leaders and being out in the community every other week has been really important.

It’s nice to get out and be with the community, listening to what they need, bringing that. Hoping that we can, yeah, improve our services and I personally am so passionate about food access, and it’s been really cool to work with Serena, who is so passionate about vaccine equity, and that we can work on a project together that blends those two.

Lisa Jacques-Carroll 36:20

Excellent. Thank you so much for sharing. How about you, Serena?

Serena Ortiz 36:24 I have my own story of vaccine hesitancy; for a very long time, growing up in a very rural area, not having access to healthcare, having experience with poverty, discrimination, lack of access to food and, and all things that come with that. So, you know, vaccination was very much the last thing on my family’s mind for a very long time. And it wasn’t until I got to college that I, you know, realized that vaccination was important. Once I started, um, studying public health and had this, like, enlightenment of maintaining health and protecting health, and with that education piece, and finally having the education to make the decision to get the flu shot for the first time, or to get, you know, vaccinated for the first time, it really made me think.

I return to this work because there are still people out there without the information they need to make these decisions, and now it’s even harder to reach them because of this information has beat us to it, right? Beat us to the chase, and people believe myths and cannot or will not regularly access, you know, doctors or providers or even go to a pharmacy to get a vaccination because of a plethora of different things, right? So they’re yet to be reached, and that’s very impactful and profound to me. So I’m really brought back with a purpose to advocate for the people that were just like me that didn’t have access to that information and experienced hesitancy without even knowing that I was hesitant to vaccine. So I think that’s the biggest one.

Lisa Jacques-Carroll 37:56

That’s really powerful. Thank you for sharing. It was so great to hear about all the work that you’re doing in your community to build trust and increase access, both food and vaccines. Thank you so much for chatting with me today, ladies.

Serena Ortiz 38:13

Thank you for having us. It’s been, it’s been a joy to be here.

Sophie Tate 38:16

Yeah. Thank you.

Dr. Yabo Beysolow 38:21

Thank you for listening. If you want to get all the episodes as we release them, please subscribe to the podcast on your favorite podcast app, or visit the AIM website to join our mailing list. The Association of Immunization Managers, or AIM, is dedicated to establishing a nation free of vaccine preventable diseases.

Visit our [email protected] to get resources to help your community thrive. REACH or Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health. It’s a national program administered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, to reduce racial and ethnic health disparities. AIM has partnered with CDC to engage in support participating reach organizations in their efforts to address racial and ethnic disparities related to COVID-19 and flu vaccination coverage.

This content was funded in part by cooperative agreement with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention grant, number six, N like Nancy, H like Henry, two, three. I like India. P like Paul, 9 2 2 5 6 9 dash zero five dash zero three. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is an agency within the Department of Health and Human Services or HHS.

The contents of this resource do not necessarily represent the policy of CDC or HHS and should not be considered an endorsement by the federal government. The views expressed by the guests are their own and do not reflect those of AIM or iReach. AIM controls all content on this podcast. All episodes were recorded and produced in 2023.

Back To Top