From August 2021 - December 2021, the EPI Lab at UCLA led a field study of same-day unhoused peer vaccine ambassadors in encampments and shelters. The idea was simple: people listen to people they already trust. So we enrolled people experiencing homelessness who were already vaccinated for COVID-19 to join Los Angeles County's COVID-19 Response Teams for a few hours. The peer ambassadors shared their experience getting the COVID vaccine. The data suggests that it worked - we found that for each hour a peer participated, an additional person got vaccinated that day. Starting in December, the County took it over as a regular program. Implementation study success! See photos and documents below, including the research studies and conference presentations.
We presented an overview of the project and preliminary results at the National Council on Health Care for the Homeless in Bellevue, WA in May 2022. Ruby Romero (EPI Lab Research Coordinator) and Anthony Coleman (Community Health Worker) lead a workshop that sparked a lot of discussion with other jurisdictions. Download our slides here.
The first academic paper from the study, led by Kristen Choi, RN, PhD was published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine. Partway through the study, we held a community conference at UCLA to check in with Community Health Workers about how to improve the project. This paper reports the findings from the focus groups with Community Health Workers. Anthony, Adam, Marisol, and Angel are all Community Health Workers who made sure we captured the discussions accurately! Pictured: Peer Ambassador Coordinators Gunner Sixx and Priyanka Guha and Graduate Student Researcher Ashley Frederes wait for the rest of the attendees to arrive. Note the custom mugs!
The second paper from the project was published in Journal of Urban Health based on brief, anonymous surveys conducted during COVID-19 vaccine clinics. We started the survey on pen and paper, and then Allie Rosen, PhD - Supervising Epidemiologist for Housing for Health - took it to the next level with a geolocated mobile survey app. Photo from outreach on Day 1 of the paper version!
Following the successful Peer Ambassador study, the EPI lab had the opportunity to share lessons learned with national working groups on vaccine ambassadors. One of the most important resources we developed is the quick reference on field outreach safety.