Initiative to Address Health Disparities Across Washington State

A man holds a young girl in his arms, and both are wearing COVID-19 face coverings.

The Washington State Department of Health (DOH) continues collaborating with community development organizations to address health disparities among high-risk and underserved populations, including minorities and rural residents.

DOH received $29 million from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to strengthen public health infrastructure, preparedness, and response capabilities and services to address health disparities caused by the COVID-19 virus. This grant advances health equity in underserved and disproportionately affected populations through testing, contact tracing, and other mitigation strategies.


By the end of the three-year grant period the state will have increased:

  • Access to mobile and home-based testing for focus populations
  • Vaccination uptake among focus populations
  • The number of stakeholders and partners engaging in work to address COVID-19 disparities in rural communities and within communities of focus
  • Local capacity for community mobilization and emergency response work
Communities of Focus

This project has a statewide scope, focusing on populations disproportionately affected by COVID-19, such as:

Priority Communities

  • Black/African American
  • Hispanic/Latinx
  • African Diaspora
  • Asian
  • Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander
  • American Indians/Alaska Natives/Urban Indians

Priority Intersections

  • People living in rural areas
  • People with disabilities
  • Religious minorities
  • LGBTQ+ people
  • People over 65 years old
  • People adversely affected by persistent poverty or inequality, including:
    • People who are incarcerated
    • Immigrant and refugee communities
    • People with limited English proficiency
    • Agricultural workers
    • Unhoused people/people experiencing homelessness
Strategies and Activities

Strategy 1: Expand Existing and Develop New Mitigation and Prevention Resources and Services

  • Support people who stay home to stop COVID-19.
  • Support community health workers for COVID-19 response and resilient communities.
    • Care Connect Washington is a program to provide food and other necessities to people who have tested positive for COVID-19 and need support to isolate at home.
  • Expand partnerships to increase mobile and home-based testing in disproportionately at-risk or isolated areas.
    • The WA COVID-19 program provides first responders in Washington state with free, COVID-19 tests for their communities.

Strategy 2: Increase and Improve Data Collection and Reporting

  • Data equity for Indigenous health.
    • This pilot project between the Seattle Indian Health Board, the Urban Indian Health Institute, and DOH intends to improve the collection, reporting, and dissemination of COVID-19 surveillance data for tribal communities in Washington state. This project will use community driven and equity centered solutions to improve COVID-19 health outcomes of Washington state tribes.

Strategy 3: Build On, Leverage, and Expand Infrastructure Support

  • Provide low-barrier vaccine access for people who use drugs and people living with substance use disorder.
  • Provide refugee community health outreach worker support.
    • The Refugee and Immigrant Health program partnered with refugee health screening clinics that serve refugee and immigrant communities in Washington to build, leverage, and expand infrastructure support for COVID-19 prevention and control among populations that are at higher risk and underserved.

Strategy 4: Mobilize Partners and Collaborators

  • The Washington State Office of Rural Health funds organizations in rural communities to mobilize partners and address COVID-19 health disparities.
  • Support the Community Collaborative to ensure DOH applies equity and social justice to COVID-19 vaccine and response planning and decision-making. Formerly called the COVID-19 Vaccine Implementation Collaborative, it is guided by a committee of thought partners who represent communities experiencing health inequities, and it has broadened its focus to include other public health issues.
  • Provide subawards to community-rooted, community-led entities to mobilize partners and organizations to address COVID-19 health disparities.
  • Support community engagement and outreach efforts.
    • This activity helps community-rooted organizations access DOH health information. The team is building internal structures to ensure engagement and outreach opportunities are dynamic, iterative, responsive, accessible and in multiple languages for COVID-19 and future emergencies.
    • The Building Community Capacity for Equitable COVID-19 Recovery is a funding opportunity for community-rooted, community-led entities to mobilize partners and organizations to address COVID-19 health disparities.