Ms. Kelly leads a not-for-profit managed care organization that serves more than 950,000 Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) enrollees across Connecticut. Her vision of building healthier communities by bringing high-quality care and equity to underserved populations is supported by the organization’s expertise in care management, population health management, data and analytics, engagement and teamwork. Ms. Kelly earned an MPA, from the School of Public and Environmental Affairs, Indiana University. She has served on many professional and community Board of Directors, most recently as a trustee of the CT Historical Society, The Lyman Heritage and Preservation Foundation and the Farmington Valley (CT) Chapter of The Links, Incorporated.
We all know about some of the long–standing issues regarding the fear and mistrust of the health care system by Black and Brown populations. More information about the vaccines should be provided by the Federal government as part of a national COVID-19 strategy for transparency.
As Congress continues to discuss the next COVID-19 relief package, what are some immediate fixes that would directly impact communities of color?
The first fix I would suggest is to immediately upgrade the Vaccine Administration Management System (VAMS) to allow for real–time registrations. This would allow walk-up and pop-up clinics and reduce the burden of scheduling an appointment. Testing clinics have been very successful, and we need to use that model. Efforts could then be focused on registering individuals to capture needed information at the sites. Another suggestion is to provide health insurance providers and providers with access to vaccine information for their members and patients. Such information would help reduce outreach duplication, assist care management efforts, and help with the analysis of vaccine impacts. State health information exchanges (HIE) should be used to help facilitate the delivery of this information. Certain state and federal regulations would need to be suspended and should be included in the relief package.
We all know about some of the long–standing issues regarding the fear and mistrust of the health care system by Black and Brown populations. More information about the vaccines should be provided by the Federal government as part of a national COVID-19 strategy for transparency. While many states are providing frequently asked questions (FAQ) and other information such as identifying myths, not every state is doing this. Sound bites in the media are also occurring. However, consistent and comprehensive information, such as what ingredients are used in the vaccines and what are not, the types of people included in the trials (race/ethnicity, age, conditions, etc.) should be included. This will help answer questions like, Were people like me and with my conditions included in the study?” If they were not, should that be a concern? Known potential side effects and explanations about how the vaccines protect individuals from serious disease and death should be included. The messaging needs to be in plain language and provided in multiple languages. The information should be provided in more places than on websites. For example, funding for mailings (particularly for seniors), flyers and ads in neighborhood newspapers is needed.
In addition, millions of individuals have been vaccinated. Data should be provided on the number of vaccinations administered by state, age, race/ethnicity and sex. This information should be updated at least weekly and provided to the general public, similar to what is being done for positive COVID-19 cases and deaths.
Finally, outreach and education programs for Black and Brown communities should be developed ideally by persons from their communities. Existing non-profit organizations, such as health centers, community action agencies, African American and Hispanic cultural organizations, homeless shelters, and others located in these communities and already delivering services should be utilized for this effort. Many of these organizations’ funding streams have been negatively impacted because of the pandemic. Funding to shore up these organizations should be earmarked in the relief package.
Which health care leader who is African American do you most admire, and why?
The African American health care leader I most admire is Dr. Reginald J. Eadie. Dr. Eadie is the President and Chief Executive Officer of Trinity Health of New England, an integrated health care delivery system serving a population of 3 million people. He has held several senior leadership positions throughout his career and has extensive experience in managing complex hospital operations, clinical integration and transformation.
Born and raised in Detroit, Dr. Eadie began his journey toward becoming a physician, a career goal he established at the age of 7. He is a board-certified emergency medicine physician. Dr. Eadie earned his Bachelor of Science degree, with magna cum laude honors, from South Carolina State University. He earned his medical degree from Wayne State University School of Medicine and an MBA from Michigan State University. He is an accomplished author with books on, “How to Eat and Live Longer “and “Tree of Life,” where he uses his biblical and medical knowledge and experience from 10 years as a weight loss physician, to address the health challenges facing inner-city residents.
While I can talk more about his many achievements, I would like to talk about the man and why I admire him. I attended one of his Trinity Health confirming ceremonies. This was his day and I expected it to be about him, but when it was his turn to speak, he read a poem that he had written about those who serve and care for the infirm. He spoke of their compassion, hard work and dedication. At the end, you realized the poem is about nurses. He was using this opportunity to recognize those individuals who many times are taken for granted. This to me was one example of who Dr. Eadie is as a man, his caring and understanding for others.
Throughout his career, Dr. Eadie has made it his mission to improve communities and the health of the underserved. Long before the COVID-19 pandemic, he recognized that Black Americans are more likely to have health conditions such as diabetes or hypertension and more likely to die from them. From the beginning of the pandemic, he was advocating for persons of color and providing care and needed testing. He collaborated with other health systems on PPE, testing, and other needs. He was appointed by the Connecticut governor to serve as co-chair of the COVID-19 Vaccine Advisory Committee. He has been tirelessly providing COVID-19 education using science and addressing the various myths and misunderstandings of the virus while acknowledging why there is the distrust of the health care system. He is also encouraging all Black and Brown leaders to step up and take their vaccinations on camera.
Another reason why I think so highly of Dr. Eadie is his approach to what he does. When he communicates, his passion and compassion always show through. Last but not least, Dr. Eadie is a family man dedicated to his wife Kimberly and their children.