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Advancing Community wellness in the Coachella Valley

Coachella Valley Equity Collaborative brings 10,000 COVID-19 vaccines to valley farmworkers and other underserved residents

Residents sit in chairs for 15 minutes after getting the vaccine in the Desert Mirage High School gym.
The Coachella Valley Equity Collaborative recently reached a milestone in its campaign to empower traditionally underserved residents to protect themselves and their families during the coronavirus pandemic: more than 10,000 vaccine doses given.

Established in fall 2020 by the Desert Healthcare District and Foundation, the collaborative created and implemented an equitable response to COVID-19. Working with the campaign theme, "The Power Is in Your Hands," the collaborative partners include Alianza Coachella Valley, El Sol Neighborhood Educational Center, Galilee Center, Lideres Campesinas, Pueblo Unido CDC, TODEC Legal Center, Vision y Compromiso, and Youth Leadership Institute.

With $1.2 million in CARES Act funds through Riverside County and $500,000 from the Public Health Institute, the collaborative brings COVID-19 testing, educational materials, access to support services, and vaccines to farmworkers and other vulnerable communities from Desert Hot Springs to North Shore.

"From Day 1 of this collaborative, we prioritized equity in where and how COVID-19 resources are distributed," said Dr. Conrado Bárzaga, Desert Healthcare District and Foundation CEO. "With the support of many collaborative partners, we made introductions to the farm-working community in the eastern valley for the Riverside County Department of Public Health, and focused on removing transportation, technological, language and other barriers to getting tested and vaccinated."

Mobile clinics are routinely held where residents live, work and worship across the valley. In some cases, collaborative partners take iPads to the agricultural fields to register the farmworkers for COVID-19 tests. And educational materials are provided in English, Spanish and Purépecha, a language that derives from the highlands of Michoacán, Mexico.

The collaborative's focus remains firmly on acquiring additional vaccine doses as outreach continues. The Desert Healthcare District and Foundation is working with the county, federally qualified health centers and pharmacies, with a goal of achieving herd immunity in Thermal, Mecca, Oasis and North Shore, some of the smaller incorporated communities grappling with a disproportionate number of COVID-19 cases.

On March 12 during a visit to a vaccination clinic in Coachella, Gov. Gavin Newsom commended the community collaborative effort and said it could be a model in other regions of California.

Dr. Bárzaga echoes the sentiment, emphasizing that what the collaborative has achieved so far is an "example of how equity in action means good results for everyone."

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About the Desert Healthcare District and Foundation
The Desert Healthcare District is a local government agency formed in 1948. Its mission is to achieve optimal health at all stages of life for all District residents. The District includes more than 400,000 residents and encompasses the entire Coachella Valley. The District and Desert Healthcare Foundation, together, are one of the largest funders in the valley. These funds are used to assist residents — especially the underserved — in accessing vitally needed resources, such as primary and behavioral healthcare, housing, food, and transportation to medical appointments.