Local Groups Establish Public-Private Partnership to Help Phoenix’s Latino Communities Fight COVID-19

by Anabell Castro Thompson and Tomás León

At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, it quickly became apparent that underserved, vulnerable communities would be hit the hardest and suffer the most. 

Unfortunately, the pandemic’s rapid sweep across Phoenix’s Latino community has confirmed this grim reality — and it’s been the same for most communities comprised of people of color across the nation. For example, data from Maricopa County reveals that about 50% of COVID-19 cases and 44% of hospitalizations have been experienced by Hispanic and Latino people, who make up just 31% of the county’s population. 

Across the country, the story has been similar. Compared with white, non-Hispanic people, Hispanics and Latinos have experienced 2.8 times more COVID-19 cases, 4.6 times higher hospitalization rates and 1.1 times higher death rates, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. 

The factors driving racial and ethnic disparities in COVID-19 are complex and varied, but most have one element in common: They are the result of inequities of living, social and working conditions that have persisted in the U.S. for generations, isolating Latino communities from the resources they need and impairing their ability to effectively respond to the pandemic.

Proactively Reaching Underserved, Under-Tested Communities

However, what has been encouraging during the pandemic is the way that Greater Phoenix’s public and private institutions have joined forces to form partnerships aimed at ensuring the safety and health of Arizonans during the COVID-19 public health crisis. 

Chaired and founded by the Equality Health Foundation and Chicanos Por La Causa, the R.A.P.I.D Community-Based COVID-19 Testing Coalition is implementing a comprehensive, community-based model that includes education, viral testing, follow-up care, mask distribution, connection to essential social services and contact tracing in underserved, under-tested communities.

Other Coalition participants include local healthcare providers, such as Valle del Sol, Mountain Park Health and Adelante Healthcare; private companies such as Sonora Quest Laboratories and Verizon; various community-based organizations; Arizona Department of Health Services; and municipal governments, including Phoenix, Peoria and Glendale.

Though the Coalition and its partners have been responsible for testing 7,000 Arizonans for COVID-19 since the program began in May, our activities extend far beyond testing. Our targeted, coordinated approach to reach underserved, under-tested communities in Greater Phoenix also has a heavy emphasis on education, follow-up care and connection to essential services. 

For example, we have leveraged virtually all available communications channels — TV, radio, social media, text messages, email and the like — to perform outreach campaigns aimed at educating the Latino community on how to stay safe and protect themselves, risk factors, treatment options and resources to assist with social needs. 

Looking forward, we are proud to say that the R.A.P.I.D Coalition’s work has only just begun. We are focused on improving healthcare readiness and preparedness in the Greater Phoenix area, with a current emphasis on developing plans for flu season and a COVID-19 vaccine. Through this unprecedented joint effort by the Phoenix business community, we stand ready to respond to future public health crises and support the most vulnerable members of our population.   

Anabell Castro Thompson, M.S.N., A.P.R.N., A.N.P.-C., F.A.A.N., F.A.A.N.P.
Senior Vice President of Health Equity

Tomás León
Senior Vice President of Marketing and Strategy
Equality Health


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