The coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated long-standing social, economic and political inequities in the U.S., with disproportionate morbidity and mortality from COVID-19 in low-income communities of color. In May 2020, the Orange County Health Equity COVID-19 Community-Academic Partnership was formed to assert a health equity approach to mitigating and eliminating the effects of COVID-19.

Over the summer, UCI Community Resilience Projects connected the partnership with UCI Public Health to ensure that local contact tracing training prioritizes issues of health equity. The monthlong curriculum trained 300 health practitioners, students, community leaders and residents in English and Spanish to:

  • Gain foundational knowledge of COVID-19 health science and health equity as an outcome and approach to response efforts.
  • Build essential COVID-19 response skills.
  • Help shape and communicate a proactive narrative around the causes of and strategies to address COVID-19 as part of a larger effort for racial equity.
  • Engage the community in navigating current systems and structures and in transforming the conditions that have led to disproportionate impacts on Black, Latinx, Asian American, Pacific Islander, immigrant and Indigenous communities. 

Participants believe that building local resilience is not about returning to pre-pandemic conditions; rather, it means moving forward to create the public health and safety interventions needed for health equity. UCI Community Resilience Projects uses this approach to support community-driven climate resilience strategies. It is now poised to harness the health equity training infrastructure to inform efforts to transform local climate policies and practices that put health and equity for all people at the center of sustainability work.