Working in Salem and Cumberland counties opened our eyes to rural communities and health issues that we weren’t previously aware of.Taylor Brown and Maritza Gomez
After we helped Camden County achieve a COVID-19 vaccination rate of 74% by May 2022, the NJ Department of Health asked our community engagement team to expand our outreach to rural Salem and Cumberland counties, which had vaccination rates of 56% and 53% respectively in April 2022.
We started by forging strong working relationships with organizations that already had roots in the area. Through these partnerships, we held vaccination events, health fairs, and presentations where we talked to community members about the COVID vaccine and, more broadly, their experiences getting care.
We knew that our experience working with an urban population in Camden would not necessarily translate 100 percent to the needs and experiences of those in a more rural area. We didn’t want to ‘play the hero.’ Instead, we intentionally built relationships and started conversations from a place of humility.Taylor Brown and Maritza Gomez
Our outreach efforts in Camden helped the county achieve a COVID-19 vaccination rate of 74 percent by May 2022, compared to 4% when we started in June 2021. Due to this success, we were approached by the New Jersey Department of Health (NJDOH) to expand our outreach to Salem and Cumberland counties with a goal of increasing vaccination rates in these rural counties on the southern border of New Jersey.