Each year, the Massachusetts Adult Immunization Conference planning committee selects the Adult Immunization Champion Award winner based on a nomination and review process. The review committee looks for nominees who have shown leadership, innovation, collaboration, advocacy, and initiative in adult immunization.
In 2021, BMC HealthNet Plan Mercy Alliance ACO participated in a project to increase immunization rates amongst communities in Springfield with high-levels of vaccine disparities. Led by Cherelle Rozie and Whitney Huffman, Mercy was one of several ACOs participating in the project under the direction of MassHealth. One requirement of the project was to incorporate an intervention to increase health equity for vaccination rates in the Springfield community. While some plans struggled to identify culturally sensitive interventions, Ms. Rozie and Ms. Huffman offered creative interventions and looked beyond their members and to serving the larger community.
Strategies used to increase vaccination rates are:
- Collaborated with regional hospitals Holyoke Medical Center and Baystate Medical Center to strategize increasing COVID vaccination rates in their shared catchment areas and deploying available resources
- Create strategic data reporting to identify highest impacted areas and identify opportunities for engagement, based on state and community data on vaccine acceptance and availability of vaccines in the community
- Engaged and funded community partners in conducting outreach and vaccine deployments to the community. Partners included the Black Springfield Covid-19 Coalition, New North Citizen’s Council, the Gandara Center, Educare Springfield, the Mental Health Association, Open Pantry Community Services, Extreme Kids Inc., and the Public Health Institute of Western Mass. Community partners both hosted vaccine events, community engagement discussions and addressing vaccine hesitancy
- Engaged local social media influences and at a variety of radio stations to promote the “It Starts Here” COVID vaccine campaign on the importance of getting vaccinated and address hesitancy. Radio stations targeted include stations that play Tropical, Hip Hop, Country, and Adult Contemporary music as well as stations that focus on Sports. Coordinated with Physician leaders to lead call-in shows on the WTCC radio show, Health Matters.
- Conducted targeted outreach and deployment of vaccine resources to census blocks with low vaccination rates
As of March 2022, 59% of BMC HealthNet Plan Mercy Alliance ACO adult members had been vaccinated against COVID and disparities in vaccinations among patient populations were closed.
Cherelle Rozie is a certified Health Education Specialist and the Director of Acute Social Needs at Atrium Health in Charlotte, NC. Most of Ms. Rozie’s work has centered around health equity and disparities, chronic disease prevention and education. Ms. Rozie previously served as the Regional Director of Community Health and Well Being for the Springfield market at Trinity Health of New England/Mercy Medical Center. In this role, she was responsible for all community health programs and initiatives within the market. She was also responsible for oversight of the Mercy Medical Center Healthcare for the Homeless program and Springfield Social Care Team.
Ms. Rozie also spent several years with the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association and served as their Health Equity Director and Community Impact Director for the Boston area market. She also served as Regional Community CPR Manager for the AHA/ASA Greater Southeast Affiliate which included the following states/territories: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Puerto Rico.
Ms. Rozie has an undergraduate degree from Howard University, and a master’s degree in Public Health with a concentration in Community and International Health from New York University.
Whitney Huffman is the Director of Clinical integration at Southern New England Health. An experienced healthcare leader, Ms. Huffman has extensive experience in government health care delivery innovation and reform. Her work has focused on developing novel strategies across stakeholder communities to improve patient health outcomes and access to care.
In her current role, Ms. Huffman oversees the programs to improve clinical quality outcomes for all major payor contracts. She is responsible for development and implementation of quality improvement programs across the Connecticut and Massachusetts market. Previously, she was the Director of Population Health at Boston Medical Center Health Systems and worked during the pandemic on launching vaccine clinics in highly impacted communities in Boston. She worked for 7 years at MassHealth, overseeing key strategic initiatives across state agencies and ended her time as the Director of Safety Net Programs. Ms. Huffman is the recipient of numerous awards throughout her career including the 2018 Medicaid Director Award and the 2011 Sarah Lange Prize for Social Justice.
Ms. Huffman has a Bachelor degree in Biology from the Georgia Institute of Technology and Master Degrees in Social Work and Public Health from Boston University.