Vicksburg’s COVID-19 health literacy program to be featured at seminar

Published 9:33 am Thursday, February 24, 2022

Vicksburg’s COVID-19 and health literacy program is going nationwide; possibly international.

Program director Felicia Kent has been invited to speak at the two-day Health & Digital Literacy Summit 2022 in Boston, Mass. on April 4 and 5, sponsored by International Conference Development of Maine. The summit will also be broadcast virtually to other areas of the U.S. and other countries.

The city’s COVID-19 literacy program, “COVID-19 Champions,” began in July and is a joint partnership of the city, the Jackson-Hinds Comprehensive Health Center and Jackson State University. The two-year program is one of 72 COVID-19 literacy programs in the country and is funded by a $3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health.

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It has been selected by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service’s Office of Minority Health as one of two model organizations promoting COVID-19 education and health education.

“Because our program has been looked at as a best practices program in health literacy, I’ve been invited to conduct a workshop that will highlight the best practices we have created here in Vicksburg related to health literacy and community outreach for the underserved population,” Kent said.

“We’re in our 7th month of operation and with the success that we’ve had now we’ve been invited to a national meeting where we can showcase how we set up programs in Vicksburg and be able to share those programs with other city governments,” she said.

Mayor George Flaggs Jr. said the invitation for Kent to speak “speaks volumes for the program and how under her leadership, we’re managing that program up to the point that the whole nation is watching that model and how we’re using the faith community to communicate the importance of the vaccination and what’s available.”

COVID-19 and health literacy is important, Kent said, because of the amount of information and misinformation surrounding the virus and other health care issues that are confusing people.

“It’s really important that communities and organizations begin to address health literacy and create avenues to be able to bridge the gap between health literacy and patients and health outcomes,” she said, especially when it comes to people who suffer from chronic illness and the impact that COVID is having on those patients.

Kent said the biggest objective officials had to overcome in the city’s plan was misinformation and being able to create a level of trust among residents in the community and with community partners.

“A lot of times programs start and it’s all about their agenda, but because we worked closely with the residents as well as community partners like our churches we are all partners bridging the gap,” she said. “We know that health literacy is a hot topic so the title of my presentation is the underserved patients and grassroots effort in bridging the health literacy gap.”

She said the city’s model for the program uses the local faith-based organizations and other community organizations and empowers them with the resources needed to be able to go back into the community.

“We will be sharing how we have taken very complicated methods and broken them down where people in the community can understand,” Kent said. “Those methods are centered around COVID-19 testing, COVID-19 vaccination as well as health and wellness activities that patients can become a part of so they can become healthy.”

And while COVID is the health care problem presently driving health literacy, she said, “We want to empower people to be champions of their own health and then we’re able to provide them with the resources that they need and then connecting them to the health care or mental health services they need.”

Health literacy programs are aimed at reaching areas and groups that are underserved, Kent said, “So the world is interested in how we here in Vicksburg in such a short period of time working through our city government has been able to show improvement in the health of the residents.

“This is something, little Vicksburg, Miss., in Boston telling people what we do here and how it works, and the great thing about it is that Mississippi is always at the bottom of something,” she said. “For us to be in Boston and sharing how we have created this program here in the city of Vicksburg and others are interested in our best practices, I think that says a lot for Vicksburg. But more importantly, it says a lot for Mississippi as a whole.”

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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