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With Help from BWFH Members, Brigham Health COVID-19 Equity Response Team Makes a Difference

Members of Brigham Health’s COVID-19 Equity Response Team virtually “join hands” during a meeting last year.

In the Spring of 2020, a multidisciplinary group of equity leaders from across Brigham Health came together to develop strategies for addressing emerging equity issues in the pandemic and, when needed, escalating key concerns through the institution’s COVID-19 Incident Command structure. Among the group are several colleagues from Brigham and Women’s Faulkner Hospital: Director of Community Health and Wellness Tracy Sylven, CHHC, MCHES, who leads the group’s Community Health workstream, Program Manager for Workforce Development Mary Duggan and Service Excellence Manager Mary Beth Dynan.

One year later, the group has made great strides.

“During the first surge, our work in partnership with the Brigham and Mass General Brigham centered around determining what employees needed,” says Duggan. “We focused on immediate needs like childcare, providing important information to employees in their preferred languages, financial assistance and other pressing concerns. As the group and its work has evolved over the year, we’ve begun to focus more on bigger picture issues. The group provides a space to share ideas, offer advice and learn more about equity.”

In addition to addressing needs inside our organization, the group looked outward to the community. “In the early days of the pandemic, we all wanted to help, but we weren’t sure what that meant,” says Dynan. “There was a lot of conversation about what we could do both within our walls and out in the community. Tracy and her colleagues at the main campus have always worked with community leaders to learn about the needs of specific neighborhoods and to help meet those needs. They stepped up to use their knowledge and connections to guide our group and ultimately really make a difference.”

One of the very first initiatives revolved around access to COVID-19 testing in underserved neighborhoods. Sylven and leaders from across the organization quickly came together mobilizing community sites that could bring testing, as well as vital resources like food, masks, hand sanitizer and information, to neighborhoods most in need.

“The COVID-19 Equity Response Team helps guide the work we are doing in the community,” says Sylven. “By coming together, we are able to focus our efforts where there is the most need and target those efforts to the specific needs of community members in the various neighborhoods. To date, we have administered more than 19,500 COVID-19 tests at community testing sites in four different Boston neighborhoods; we have distributed more than 20,000 care kits, more than 12,000 food boxes and almost 19,000 hot meals. We also screen for social determinates of health and help folks register to vote.”

The group also runs regular meetings that are open to all Brigham Health employees. “It gives people an outlet,” says Sylven. “It’s a safe space to talk about what’s going on in the world and our communities and how we can make a difference.”

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