As part of a new two year initiative, the U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Minority Health has handed out 73 grant awards to improve health literacy, and a Hudson Valley county is a recipient.

$800,000 has been awarded to the Orange County Health Department (OCDOH) in the form of a grant in order to help identify and implement best practices for improving health literacy, and enhance COVID-19 vaccination and other mitigation practices within underserved populations.

Health literacy has been identified as a person's ability to find, understand and use information and services to help make health-related decisions for themselves and others.

In a news release from the Orange County Government, OC Health Commissioner Dr. Irina Gelman stated:

COVID-19 highlighted the existing health disparities among our racial and ethnic minorities in Orange County.  We are grateful to receive this grant to increase the health literacy among our residents and enhance our efforts to reduce COVID-related disparities within these targeted populations.

What does this mean for Orange County?  The Orange County Health Department will work in conjunction with SUNY Orange and Cornerstone Family Healthcare that will provide both information and services for racial and ethnic minority populations within the county.  It will focus on developing 'health literacy plans' that will increase the availability, acceptability, and use of COVID-19 public health information and services.  This initiative will span across the next two years.

Three goals have been identified and will be a priority of the plan, Healthy People 2030:

  • eliminate health disparities
  • achieve health equity
  • attain health literacy to improve the health and well being of all

In the news release, Orange County Executive Steven M. Neuhaus explained that this funding will aid in the support of the OCDOH efforts in continued education and information about COVID-19, providing more testing, prevention practices and vaccination rates, and simultaneously encouraging comprehensive relationships between health care providers and patients.

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