Jordana Vera, a Community Health Advocate with the Springfield-Greene County Health Department, speaks with Gloria Murrill, who is fully vaccinated and has received the booster. (Photo by Jym Wilson)

In 2022, a team of public health workers went door-to-door across neighborhoods in Springfield and Greene County to talk face-to-face with people about COVID-19 and other health issues. That grant-funded program has been extended through next January, the Springfield-Greene County Health Department announced. 

The newly extended Epidemiology and Laboratory Capacity Community Health Worker Initiative grant was used by the health department to build a team of Community Health Advocates. The grant was initially awarded in 2022, and the team of health advocates spent much of the year canvassing neighborhoods to talk with residents about why they had or had not received COVID-19 vaccines. Currently, about 51 percent of county residents have been fully vaccinated. Nationwide, 68 percent of the population is. 

The team as a whole distributed educational materials to over 8,600 residents and at-home COVID-19 tests to over 9,000 residents last year. Over 8,200 vaccines were administered by the team, with about half of the vaccines being provided at outreach clinics designed to target underserved populations. 

Program expanded beyond COVID in late 2022

In the fall of 2022, the team began to expand beyond COVID-specific initiatives. Since October, 27 people have been assessed for underlying health conditions, and the team has made 80 referrals for residents in need of food, transportation, housing or mental health services. 

Katie Towns, director of the health department, said in a news release that a young pregnant woman who had recently moved to Springfield was one of the first people to receive help from the expanded initiative. Health advocates helped her to find child care, fill transportation needs, land a part-time job and get a jacket for winter.

“Working with one of our Community Health Advocates, this soon-to-be mother got connected to our NEST program for prenatal support and got signed up to receive WIC benefits so she would have access to nutritious food through her pregnancy,” Towns said in the news release. “Stories like this are why we are excited to announce the extension of this grant.”

The $474,210 grant comes to the health department from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention through the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services.  

The health department encourages people to email healthoutreach@springfieldmo.gov if they know someone who could benefit from help from a Community Health Advocate.

Cory Matteson

Cory Matteson moved to Springfield in 2022 to join the team of Daily Citizen journalists and staff eager to launch a local news nonprofit. He returned to the Show-Me State nearly two decades after graduating from the University of Missouri-Columbia. Prior to arriving in Springfield, he worked as a reporter at the Lincoln Journal Star and Casper Star-Tribune. More by Cory Matteson