Project ECHO at The University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center is launching a new program to increase COVID-19 vaccination rates in New Mexico’s rural and underserved communities.
The program will help front-line health workers gain essential skills in listening techniques, motivational interviewing and effective messaging. They will also learn how to help their clients find vaccination sites and transportation, overcoming some of the difficulties in accessing vaccines in rural areas.
It will be led by Joanna Katzman, MD, neurologist and professor in the UNM School of Medicine, empowerment strategist Jennifer Gardner, CCHW, and Ann Searight Christiano, MA, director of the Center for Public Interest Communications, which studies, tests and applies the science of strategic communication for social change.
“The vast majority of patients concerned about vaccinations are most likely to trust their local health care provider for answers, compared to any other source of information,” Katzman said. “This program will prepare all front-line clinicians and clinic staff so that they are better equipped to communicate with their patients who have vaccine questions and concerns.”
The course curriculum was developed with input from a wide range of subject matter experts based on what they experience in their practices. Sessions will cover the history of vaccines in the U.S., vaccine hesitancy, how to respond to misinformation, communication strategies, and how to have important conversations with clients and patients.
Sanjeev Arora, MD, founder and director of Project ECHO, says the new program will address a critical public health need for New Mexico, where only 67% of residents are fully vaccinated, according to the New Mexico Department of Health.
“New cases of COVID-19 are mostly occurring in unvaccinated people,” Arora said. “It’s critical that we help front-line health workers reduce concerns about the vaccine and get New Mexicans vaccinated so that we can reduce the number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.”
Health care practitioners can register for the ECHO program online. The first session is March 2, 2022, from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. MST. The sessions will continue every first and third Wednesday through September 2022. Community health workers, community health representatives, primary care providers (physicians, registered nurses, physician assistants and nurse practitioners) and other health care workers are welcome.
About Project ECHO
Since 2003, Project ECHO’s telementoring model has been used to tackle the world’s greatest challenges in health care, education, journalism and more. Headquartered at The University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center in Albuquerque, N.M., Project ECHO is empowering local community providers to improve the well-being of people around the world. Join us today, in our mission to touch 1 billion lives by 2025.
This project is supported by grant number 6U3IRH43513-01-01 from the Advancement of Telehealth, Health Resources and Services Administration, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.