Vaccines are considered one of the most important public health innovations of the 20th century, with many impressive effects: they save lives, prevent and limit the effects of many diseases and some cancers, eradicate certain diseases, increase quality of life, and have contributed to major gains in life expectancy.

Yet adult vaccination rates in the US remain low, especially for underserved groups (PDF), including people with low incomes, people who are under- and uninsured, Black communities, Hispanic communities, and immigrants. And adult vaccination rates have continuously dropped since the COVID-19 pandemic.

As health officials are increasingly challenged to keep communities healthy, implement successful immunization campaigns, and lessen stress on hospital systems, community foundations can be effective partners for meeting these goals.

What are community foundations?

Community foundations are public charities that traditionally support local or regional nonprofits by facilitating and pooling donations for the nonprofits to use to address community needs.

They’re one type of community-based organization (CBO) the Urban Institute supported through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Partnering for Vaccine Equity (P4VE) program. The program, for which Urban is one of several national intermediaries, provided financial and educational supports to CBOs working to promote adult COVID-19 and flu vaccine uptake in underserved communities by leveraging the power of public health partnerships and the influential roles of community health workers.

Urban has supported 28 CBOs over three years through the P4VE program. One such organization is the Legacy Foundation, a community foundation and P4VE partner serving Lake County, Indiana. Legacy’s experiences leveraging its funding, networks, programming, and volunteers promote vaccine confidence and build an equitable, accessible, and inclusive community provide important lessons for future community health initiatives.

How do community foundations support vaccine uptake and other public health efforts in underserved communities?

Through our work with the Legacy Foundation and other CBOs, we’ve learned that community foundations are uniquely well positioned to advance health equity in communities by using five key strategies.

  1. Building community trust through partnerships.
  2. Actively engaging with donors.
  3. Supporting ongoing community learning.
  4. Bring effective and innovative health programming to new venues.
  5. Promoting community engagement in government.

Read the full article about local health and vaccine equity by Lizzy Ferrara, Samantha Atherton, and Izabela Solosi at Urban Institute.