Mini-Grants Make a Major Difference in Local Communities

It’s not just major public-health entities that are concerned with creating conditions so community members can live their healthiest lives. Neighborhood organizations and local health departments across the country are coming up with effective, innovative programs that are making a real difference in their local areas. And thanks to mini-grants from the CDC Foundation, they’re doing it with a comparatively modest amount of grant money and a rapid timeline to implement their ideas.

A recent initiative to make sure mpox vaccinations were being offered to higher-risk individuals is a prime example of the CDC Foundation’s success in partnering with on-the-ground groups in time-sensitive situations to create local change. More than three dozen organizations—from the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, to the San Antonio AIDS Foundation to the Genesee County Health Department, North Jersey Community Research Initiative, and a wide range of others—received funds in January 2023 to implement programs that address language barriers, vaccine hesitancy and disparities, access to health care and more.

Here are just a few of the many impactful programs already in action:

  • The Community Health Worker Coalition for Migrants and Refugees (CHWCMR) in Washington State works to reduce health disparities among Latino/a/x populations, particularly those who have experienced trauma due to their sexual orientation and/or undocumented status, as well as lack of access to health care. With this CDC Foundation mini-grant, CHWCMR launched a dedicated mpox website and produced several informational videos and talk-radio shows. They also developed and distributed a series of flyers in Spanish and English, and they went even further to connect with their diverse population by translating versions into indigenous Mesoamerican languages.

Sierra Bowie and Laticia White at an outreach event for Fort Bend County Health and Human Services

Unconditional Love holds mpox vaccination events in Florida

Community Health Worker Coalition for Migrants and Refugees addresses health inequities in Washington State

  • The Mpox Education and Equity Program (MEEP) at Minority AIDS Support Services in Coastal Virginia created social-media ads and health education courses to make sure their community had access to the latest information on mpox vaccines—and now estimates these assets have been seen by more than 4,000 people. MEEP also came up with creative solutions to bring the vaccine directly to LGBTQIA+ and other at-risk populations by teaming with local health departments to set up clinics at nightclubs and a shelter for people experiencing homelessness.
  • Fort Bend County Health and Human Services, outside of Houston, set up outreach events at a Texas State Technical College health fair, complete with swag bags, and partnered with a major pharmacy in their targeted zip code to distribute the vaccine. They also created a Text2Vaxx campaign that makes it easy to set up an appointment. And they’re not done yet. “We recently identified potential locations in targeted zip codes to engage the community in informal meet-up events,” said Barbarah Martinez, the clinical health services division manager for the organization. “The goal is to get community feedback, provide health education and answer vaccine hesitancy questions directly while offering on-site HIV/STI testing and mpox testing and vaccines.” 
  • The HIV/AIDS support organization Unconditional Love brought their mobile medical unit to a soup kitchen in Melbourne, FL, successfully vaccinating 82 individuals for mpox and performing 40 rapid HIV tests. When one of those tests turned up a positive result for a person experiencing homelessness, the group leapt into action, linking him to care and services, including temporary housing. Three days later, he was meeting with a new doctor and receiving proper medical care for HIV.

Juston Baze and Cuauhtemoc “Temo” Valles-Priest staff a health outreach event in Fort Bend, Texas

The success of an mpox campaign largely depends on supporting the community you would like to reach with understanding, respect, professionalism, compassion and love.

Supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and individual donors, mini-grant programs like these are a testament to the power of people in their own community to know best what kind of assistance and support will be most effective. Ileana Maria Ponce-Gonzalez, president and executive director of the Community Health Worker Coalition for Migrants and Refugees, agrees: "The success of an mpox campaign largely depends on supporting the community you would like to reach with understanding, respect, professionalism, compassion and love. The CDC Foundation invests in our communities so everyone gets vaccinated regardless of the structural, social, and economic barriers they face.”

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