Lessons Learned From COVID-19: A Look at a Future Beyond the Pandemic

Staff Report

Wednesday, June 1st, 2022

Healthy Savannah and YMCA of Coastal Georgia are inviting the community to join the conversation about lessons learned from COVID-19 at an information and listening session on Thursday, June 9.

The event is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. at Kingdom Life Christian Fellowship, 425 W. Montgomery Cross Rd. on Savannah’s southside. The session will gauge the current COVID climate and provide a look at the future after the pandemic, along with a platform for questions and discussion.

“This is the third in our series of in-person listening sessions that we launched last summer to hear about the experiences, perceptions and concerns related to access, awareness and acceptance of the COVID vaccine. However, the session on June 9th is about next steps in engaging the community in our work.” said Elsie Smalls, PhD, operations manager. “We want you and your family, friends, and co-workers to join the conversation. Anyone who can relate to the health inequities that Black and Hispanic Savannahians experience is invited to attend.”

The listening sessions are part of a broader effort funded by a supplemental grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to broaden initiatives of the current Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health (REACH) grant, administered by Healthy Savannah and the YMCA of Coastal Georgia. The goal of the COVID/Flu initiative is to focus on vaccine access, awareness, and acceptance, particularly in Savannah’s Black and Hispanic communities.

The sessions are intended to provide a safe space for questions and concerns and to share information about the Community Health Advocates program. Past listening sessions have helped staff identify people with an interest in COVID who willing to share their stories and to provide accurate and scientifically sound information about COVID and vaccines to people they know.

“Neighborhood leaders, church leaders, community organizers, post-high school students, really anyone with a heart for community service and an interest in health equity is encouraged to attend this informal session and consider joining the Community Health Advocate training program,” said Nichele Hoskins, communication manager. “We hope those interested will also invite or refer others from their networks.’ 

Hoskins says the Community Health Advocate training program has so far enabled 35 Chatham County residents to reach deep into their own communities to hear concerns, perspectives, and experiences with COVID vaccines. Some of the program’s graduates are expected to attend the June 9 listening session to share their experiences. 

“Our focus became clear in the early days of the COVID pandemic of the necessity to build trust and listen to every voice,” said Paula Kreissler, executive director of Healthy Savannah. “The listening sessions, along with the work of the Community Health Advocates, are helping build that trust and create a better understanding in these areas of public health. These efforts are also helping strengthen other areas funded by the CDC’s REACH grant including nutrition, physical activity, and connecting the community with clinical resources.” 

The next training session for the Community Health Advocate program will get underway on July 7 with attendees meeting virtually in small groups of about 10 each. Hoskins says the training they’ll receive will equip them with the resources to develop approaches and reach out within their local communities to improve COVID-19 and flu vaccination awareness, education, and acceptance. In addition to a $500 stipend, they’ll receive for completing the training, participants can sharpen their leadership skills, learn about health advocacy, and add to their resumes.

To register for the June 9 listening and info session, to apply for the July 7 Community Advocate Training program, or to learn more, please email Briana at healthysavannahBW@gmail.com or text to (912) 421-9833.