JOLIET, IL – One of the biggest challenges over the last 15 months has been reaching those in our community that have been disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
For the WCHD (Will County Health Department), this challenge has brought about the hiring of Joliet native Vinita Voss to fill the newly created Vaccine Equity Manager position, a role that many local community leaders advocated for to address the needs of underserved communities.
A graduate of Joliet West high school, as well as Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia (with a B. A. in Political Science), Voss also has a Juris Doctorate from Vanderbilt University Law School. Her recent work in the Will County area highlights the importance of working with community partners to provide outreach, education, and resources for underrepresented populations.
Prior to her time as Health Equity Manager for the Spanish Community Center in Joliet, Voss worked as a Partnership Specialist for the U.S. Census Bureau on the 2020 Census (leading a collaborative outreach effort in Will, Grundy, Kendall, and DuPage Counties).
Vinita Voss, formerly of the Spanish Community Center in Joliet and U.S. Census Bureau, has brought her community and organizational skills to the Will County Health Department
While her Census role focused on educating communities about the importance of filling out the Census and reaching “hard to count” populations, Voss’ position with WCHD, right off the bat, will concentrate on providing educational outreach to underserved communities to ensure they have the information, resources, and access they need for COVID-19 vaccinations.
“It’s important to work with community partners, especially those that have earned the trust of our black and brown communities who have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19,” Voss explained. “Partners such as community-based organizations can assist us with communicating the importance of vaccinations, and provide direct resources such as food assistance, housing assistance, transportation assistance, and more.
“We want to use a collaborative and comprehensive approach to reach residents, address their needs and concerns, and provide them vaccine education and equitable access,” Voss continued. “Right now, through our communities, we need to build vaccine confidence. So much more must be done when it comes to vaccinating against COVID-19. For some there is mistrust of government, while for others there is a mistrust of medicine, or sometimes both. Other issues such as transportation or the times of vaccination clinics may also serve as a barrier to getting vaccinated.”
Voss says the fact that many things figure into vaccine hesitancy makes it even more imperative to work with local entities who know their community. “We’re talking about anyone offering direct services: from our community-based organizations, local businesses and chambers; to schools, your faith-based community, hospitals and health clinics/providers, and then levels of government from township offices to municipalities. We need to take a multi-disciplinary approach as a way of reaching everyone, building trust, and getting our county vaccinated and on the road to recovery.”
“We must remain vigilant and realize the battle against COVID-19 is not over,” Voss concluded. “If we want to get to a point where we are safe and comfortable, and can enjoy the things we love with less restrictions, then we all have to do our part, which includes getting vaccinated. The WCHD will be there every step of the way to ensure everyone in Will County has equitable access.”
To reach Vinita Voss at WCHD, call 815-740-8988. For more on Coronavirus and Will County Health Department programs, go to https://willcountyhealth.org/.