UCI receives $700K from the City of Santa Ana to support new initiatives for health literacy, address barriers to COVID-19 resources in vulnerable populations


Irvine, CA – August 4, 2021 - Researchers from the University of California, Irvine’s Program in Public Health and the School of Medicine’s Department of Family Medicine have received a $700,000 subcontract award from the City of Santa Ana to address inequities and gaps in health services, and enhance COVID-19 testing and other mitigation measures in racial and ethnic minority populations and other socially vulnerable populations.

Orange County has large health inequities affecting Latinos and Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) who compose 55 percent of its 3.2 million inhabitants or roughly 1.76 million people. One example is that Latino and AAPI older adults (65+) in Social Vulnerability Index (SVI) areas have been vaccinated in proportions 10-20 percent lower than those of the total older adult population.

Nearly 600,000 residents in the City of Santa Ana and surrounding North Orange County live in areas that fall in the highest quartile of the SVI, a measure of a neighborhood’s social and economic conditions, like crowding and poverty. SVIs can amplify the health burdens of disasters such as COVID-19 to its residents. Residents of these high-SVI neighborhoods make up 18 percent of Orange County’s total population, but 41 percent of its confirmed COVID cases and 43 percent of COVID deaths.

Professor of epidemiology Sora Tanjasiri, DrPH, MPH, one of UCI’s two principal investigators (PIs) on the project, commented, “The City of Santa Ana’s investment shows their continued commitment to better understanding barriers to care and implementing real world strategies to improve the health and well-being of our county’s most vulnerable populations.”

Joining Tanjasiri as co-PI on the project is John Billimek, PhD, an associate professor in the UCI School of Medicine, Department of Family Medicine.

“This project builds upon a successful, established partnership among UCI, Santa Ana and the County of Orange, aimed at reversing practices and responses that exacerbated inequities in North Orange County,” said Billimek. “Alongside partners and students that represent the cultural and linguistic diversity of our county, we hope to amplify community expertise and priorities to shape how health information and resources are made available to residents of Orange County’s high-SVI areas, both for COVID and beyond.”

Tanjasiri and Billimek will play a critical role in evaluating the Initiative’s progress and forming the community-based partnerships that are essential to the project’s success. A technical advisory group will be established and will include academic and clinical advisors in infectious disease, public health, community engagement, and primary care. The advisory group will provide data-driven guidance and initiate ongoing evaluation on process, reach, and outcome measures.

The $700,000 award is part of a larger award of $4M that Santa Ana received from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health.

About the Program in Public Health and future School of Population and Public Health:
UCI Public Health is dedicated to the achievement of health equity for all populations through teaching, research, service, and public health practice locally and globally. Championing the principles of evidence-based public health science, the program aspires to understand and impact population level social, biological, and environmental determinants of health and well-being. Drawing from the diverse expertise of its faculty, it aims to educate the future workforce of California and beyond through exceptional programs and experiential learning opportunities. UCI Public Health offers many graduate degrees at the master’s and doctoral levels, including the nationally-accredited Master of Public Health (MPH) that prepares students to lead and work collaboratively on the assessment of health-risk factors and the management of prevention strategies.

About the UCI School of Medicine
Each year, the UCI School of Medicine educates more than 400 medical students, and nearly 150 doctoral and master’s students. More than 700 residents and fellows are trained at UCI Medical Center and affiliated institutions. The School of Medicine offers an MD; a dual MD/PhD medical scientist training program; and PhDs and master’s degrees in anatomy and neurobiology, biomedical sciences, genetic counseling, epidemiology, environmental health sciences, pathology, pharmacology, physiology and biophysics, and translational sciences. Medical students also may pursue an MD/MBA, an MD/master’s in public health, or an MD/master’s degree through one of three mission-based programs: Health Education to Advance Leaders in Integrative Medicine (HEAL-IM), Leadership Education to Advance Diversity-African, Black and Caribbean (LEAD-ABC), and the Program in Medical Education for the Latino Community (PRIME-LC). The UCI School of Medicine is accredited by the Liaison Committee on Medical Accreditation and ranks among the top 50 nationwide for research. For more information, visit som.uci.edu.


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