Illinois Public Health Association and Partners Educating and Empowering Communities During Pandemic

Illinois Public Health Association and Partners Educating and Empowering Communities During Pandemic

Now live, Pandemic Health Navigator Program connects Community Health Workers, health care providers, resources and education with vulnerable populations


AURORA, Ill., April 26, 2021 /PRNewswire-HISPANIC PR WIRE/ — Joined by Governor J.B. Pritzker, the Illinois Public Health Association (IPHA), in partnership with the Illinois Primary Health Care Association (IPHCA), today announced that the COVID-19 Pandemic Health Navigator Program (PHNP) is now live and Community Health Workers are available to help residents throughout the state of Illinois. The new program integrates community health centers, community-based organizations, and public health partners to coordinate Illinois resources for the most vulnerable populations impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Illinois is well above the national average for getting first doses out to our residents, but making vaccines available is only half the battle,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “I’m proud to announce our Pandemic Health Navigator Program is already hard at work building confidence among our unvaccinated residents, educating them on what COVID-19 is, what the vaccine can do for them, and how they can protect themselves and their families. These are local community organizations who know their peers, their students, their colleagues – people who speak their languages and know their neighborhoods. In short, our Pandemic Health Navigators are a crucial part of keeping our most vulnerable residents safe, and I’m so grateful to all of them.”

“As we look toward recovering from the health, social and economic hardships brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, we recognize the importance of providing Illinois residents with education, resources and guidance from people they trust,” said Dr. Tracey Smith, Director of Programs and Community Health. “We’re proud to be leading a network of Community Health Workers that are already making an impact by connecting vulnerable populations with vital education and resources – like access to food and health services – that are positioning these communities to move forward, stronger.”

In 2021, PHNP began efforts to equip community-based organizations (CBOs) and federally qualified health centers (FQHCs) with funding, training and resources to provide local support to Illinois residents.

To date, 65 CBOs and 23 FQHCs are participating in the program. These partnerships have helped hire more than 400 Community Health Workers and regional supervisors, with the goal to hire hundreds more in the next three months. The program has received more than 1,270 requests for resources and has a 96 percent completion rate for resource requests within 48 hours.

To better understand the views and needs of Illinois communities during the pandemic, IPHA and IPHCA recently conducted a survey of more than 800 residents. The survey results showed that Illinois residents are in need of guidance and underscored the importance of sharing accurate information and dispelling common misconceptions.  The survey revealed the following data:

  • 1 in 5 indicated they were not able or unsure of their ability to tell the difference between scientific facts and misinformation or false claims on the Internet.
  •  21 percent said they would not get the COVID-19 vaccine, 71 percent said they were willing to get the vaccine, and seven percent opted not to answer the question.
  • More than half (57%) of respondents stated they would be open to working with a Community Health Worker.

“This program is an important resource to support the healthcare needs of our communities, especially diverse communities that have been disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Cyrus Winnett, Interim President and CEO, IPHCA. “By leveraging local health departments, community health centers and community-based organizations, we’re providing on-the-ground, trusted support to ensure Illinoisans receive the health education, outreach, and resources they need to be healthy and safe.”

“Healthcare providers have been on the front lines in the fight against COVID-19 from day one,” said Linnea Windel, President and CEO of VNA Health Care. “The Pandemic Health Navigator Program will provide us with additional tools, resources and Community Health Workers to support our fight against this virus and help our patients and larger community get through this together.”

The IPHA, in partnership with the IPHCA, was awarded a grant from the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) to serve as the Regional Coordinator for regions 2-9 of the PHNP to ensure coverage for these activities through direct services and/or sub-awarding to Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) and other community-based agencies.

IPHA and IPHCA will sub-contract with FQHCs and community-based agencies in Illinois COVID-19 regions 2-9 to recruit the navigators for local COVID-19 education and outreach, to support contact tracing as needed, and to connect cases and contacts with critical services and resources. This may include resources for meals, medicine, mobility support, immigration matters, work and income resources, mental health support, support for unsafe living conditions (e.g. domestic abuse), etc., during isolation and quarantine. In addition, the PHNP team will collaborate and coordinate across the assigned regions with the public health system, including with local health departments (LHDs), to support contact tracing efforts and ensure all communities receive needed assistance and to help reduce disparities in health outcomes.

For more information about the program and to connect to a local community health worker, visit

About the Illinois Public Health Association
The Illinois Public Health Association is the oldest and largest public health association in the state of Illinois.  As one of the largest affiliates of the American Public Health Associations, IPHA is widely recognized as the leader in the field of public health advocacy, health education and promotion. For more information, visit

About the Illinois Primary Health Care Association
IPHCA represents Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) or community health centers—entities created by Congress to meet the health care needs of underserved communities and high-risk patients. These centers fill a void by providing care for those whom other providers often do not serve. Since FQHCs must, by law, serve the medically underserved regardless of their ability to pay, CHCs are located in geographic regions designated as having a shortage of medical providers who serve this population. In addition, the medically underserved may be low-income, uninsured, homeless, affected by HIV/AIDS, struggling with substance abuse and/or have special needs. IPHCA is committed to fulfilling its mission of helping communities help themselves by advocating and expanding community primary care services across Illinois, and assisting member organizations in fulfilling their goal of community empowerment through health care choice. By advocating on behalf of members’ interests, IPHCA also advocates for underserved citizens and communities. For more information visit

SOURCE Illinois Public Health Association

Illinois Public Health Association and Partners Educating and Empowering Communities During Pandemic